Getting your car ready for winter

Chris Heeks, motoring expert from Green Flag, shares his advice on how to get your car ready for the cold...

Les Roberts: The number of breakdowns soars over the winter months, with figures from the Green Flag revealing call-outs virtually double.

Given the harsh weather we've seen over the past few years, finding yourself stranded is the last thing you want to happen.

Chris Heeks from Green Flag gives his top tips for winter driving, to help reduce the chance of you breaking down.

Battery and electrics

Chris Heeks: Batteries are a common problem, but one of the easiest to fix and avoid.

Batteries rarely last longer than five years. Replacing it near the end of its life can save a lot of time and inconvenience later on.

Turn off electrical loads like lights, heaters and wipers before trying to start the engine.

If the engine doesn't start, use short five-second bursts, leaving thirty seconds between attempts to allow the battery to recover.

Lights, heaters and wipers put high demands on the car battery in winter, so take care of it.

If your driving is mainly dark rush-hour trips, the battery will give out eventually.

Turn the heater fan down and switch the heated screens off when they're not necessary.


Most modern cars use long-life antifreeze.

It's important to use the right type and avoid mixing different types - check the handbook or ask a dealer for advice.

You need a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water for winter. This gives maximum protection down to -34° centigrade, and without it, severe engine damage can occur.

Glycol-based antifreeze should be changed at least every two years.

If the car begins to overheat just a few miles from home, it's likely that the radiator has frozen. Turn the engine off immediately, and let the radiator thaw.


This may be an obvious one, but keep the windscreen and other windows clear - you can face a heavy fine for failing to do this.

Check your water and screen-wash levels, and make sure you have a scraper for frost and snow.

Use air conditioning for faster demisting and to reduce condensation on cold windows.

Dazzle from a low winter sun is a real problem, so keep windows clean both inside and out.

Check your wipers are in good order, and don't have any damage.

Make sure that all bulbs are working, and that lenses are clean. In really bad weather, this can be worth checking each journey.


As you might suspect, tyres are extremely important.

We recommend at least 3mm of tread for winter motoring, and certainly no less than 2mm.

Don't reduce tyre pressures to get more grip - it doesn't work, and reduces stability.

Consider changing to winter or all season tyres - these have a higher silica content in the tread which prevents it hardening at lower temperatures, and therefore gives better grip in cold wet conditions.

Allow extra time for winter journeys, and remember that it's better to be late but safe, rather than the alternative.

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