How to prepare your car for winter

The colder months of the year see the most car breakdowns, so Clare Francis spoke with Chris Heekes, a roadside technician for Green Flag, to get his top tips on how to prepare your car for winter...

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Clare Francis: Car breakdowns will soar over the next few months, caused by the low winter temperatures, but Green Flag says a lot of these can be avoided if only we took better care of our cars.

Chris Heekes, a road side technician is here to give us his top tips on what you can do to ensure your car is ready for the winter months ahead

Antifreeze

Chris Heekes: One of the first tips I’d give is to always check your antifreeze in your vehicle. It’s quite easily done – on most cars, as you can see here, there’s an antifreeze bottle at the top of the engine, and they always have a maximum and minimum level on here.

Also you’ll probably have to get a garage or people like ourselves, Green Flag, to come around and check the antifreeze strength for you just to make sure it is up to the right mixture.

Visibility

CH: My next tip would be always to have clear visibility in bad weather. Obviously always check that your wiper blades on the vehicle are always in good condition, and of course keep your screenwash topped up. Always check on your levels, usually before you start out on a journey in the cold weather.

You can easily check the wiper blades just by lifting it up off the screen. You can often see if the wiper blade is torn at the end or if it has started to pit in the middle. Any signs of wear like that it should be changed straight away, because obviously that’s going to reduce your visibility through your screen.

One of the other final items you need to make sure of also is that your bulbs on the vehicle are working and in good order, obviously to keep good visibility in poor weather but it also keeps you legal as well. You really need to be checking your lights on a weekly basis or certainly on a daily basis when the weather is really poor, just to make sure that they are all working okay.

Oil

CH: Another important issue for winter motoring is to check that your oil level is always up to level. If your oil level is quite low, it can also cause a lot of engine damage. Oil level is quite easily checked – on most cars you will find the dipstick is either at the front of the engine, or at the side. It’s quite often now yellow in colour.

It’s quite easily checked by pulling it out. As you can see from the dipstick there are two marks, and the oil level should be at the top mark, which is maximum. If it isn’t, you can remove the oil lid so you can quite easily put oil into the vehicle. Usually if the oil level is on the bottom mark, it is normally about 1 litre of oil to bring it up to the maximum. 

The oil is poured into the top of the engine until the level comes up onto the dipstick, and then you will need to check it again by putting the dipstick back in. Once the oil level comes back up to the proper level as you can see, it is then on the maximum and is safe to use.

Battery

CH: The battery is normally charged on your vehicle via the vehicles alternator, but if things like lights are left on there is after-market products that can be used for charging the battery back up again. Under normal circumstances the vehicle can cope under normal running with re-boosting the battery back up again.

It is roughly about a third of our breakdowns is due to flat batteries. As soon as we get a cold snap, if the battery is showing signs of weakness beforehand that quite easily can just go flat overnight and people are not aware of it until they come out in the morning.

Ideally, just make sure that all your lights are switched off when you leave the vehicle, obviously you need to be aware that in winter months you’ve got a lot more electrical equipment in the vehicle – heated rear windows, fans are on higher, headlights are on and one thing or another – you just need to make sure that you keep your battery topped up all the time.

Tyres

CH: In the bad winter weather you need to check you’ve got plenty of tread on your tyres, that there’s no bald patches or any bulges on your tyres at all that could cause problems. Another issue is you also need to check that the inflation of the tyre is okay. You have to have a look in your vehicle handbook which comes with the vehicle from new – depending what vehicle you have, specific tyre sizes for your vehicle are all written down in this handbook.

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