At this time last year I was driving a clapped out old Vauxhall Corsa that I took no care of. As temperatures plummeted, winter punished my negligence with a series of mechanical problems and repair bills. Had I carried out a bit of maintenance on it every now and again, the four-wheeled leak might have made it through to the spring, but instead it was eventually sent to the great scrapheap in the sky. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, I was forced to see the error of my ways, and now, like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, I’m here to warn you against a similar fate. Here’s a look at some of the most common car problems caused by cold weather, and what you can do to avoid them.
Problem: Batteries running flatThe AA says battery faults are the most common cause of breakdowns, and there’s an increased risk of battery problems when the mercury starts falling. A car battery, like any battery, relies on a chemical reaction which is slowed down in low temperatures. This reduces the battery’s ability to hold charge and makes it more likely to run flat. Another problem at this time of year is that our cars are often left standing for days at a time, as we hang up the keys so that we can celebrate with a drink (pro tip: drink-driving ruins lives), or as especially bad weather keeps us indoors. This means the battery will miss out on the charging it usually gets from regular use. Discharge + Cold weather – charge = flat battery.
Fix: Prevention is better than cure
- Test your battery as soon as possible, and replace it if the levels look too low to get you through winter.
- Before you start your engine, switch off all drains on the battery, such as lights, wipers, heaters, radio, satnav, air conditioning etc.
- Use non-essential electrical features sparingly.
- If possible, keep your car parked in a garage overnight, when temperatures are lowest.