How to get your car ready for winter
1. Check your lights
Whether you’re driving in mist and fog, heavy rain or snow, day or night, it’s important to make sure you can see and be seen on the road.
Check all your exterior lights are working and keep them clean. If any bulbs aren’t working, they’re usually pretty straightforward to replace or you can usually pay a small fee to have this done at a garage or service centre.
2. Keep your windscreen and windows clean
The low winter sun can often be a real driving hazard – especially when combined with heavy rain on the roads. You should always take care when driving in this sort of condition, so regularly cleaning your windscreen and windows, inside and out, can help with visibility. Only use a cleaner intended for car glass.
To help avoid smearing, clean the wiping edges of wiper blades with a tissue dipped in neat screen wash additive and you can stop them freezing to the screen by propping them up on slices cut from a cork when you park for the night.
Also regularly check the condition of your blades and replace them if necessary. Again, you can do this yourself or pay a small fee to have it done for you.
Also, keep the washer reservoir topped up and use an additive with antifreeze properties (not engine antifreeze though!). In the morning, you can use warm (not boiling!) water for defrosting windows, but watch where it runs – it could form an ice slick when it freezes.
3. Check your tyres
Check your car’s tyre pressures (including the spare wheel) at least once a week and before you set off on any long journey. Also check the tread depth – 1.6mm is the legal minimum but for good grip on wet roads, it’s best to replace tyres once the tread depth is 2.0mm.
If you’re going to be driving on snow-covered roads it might be worth buying a set winter tyres or snow socks for your existing tyres.
4. Check under the bonnet
Check the level in the coolant reservoir and top up as necessary with a mix of water and antifreeze solution. The coolant (with antifreeze) should be changed every two to three years.
Also make sure the antifreeze concentration in the cooling system is adequate – if there has been a leak and you’ve been topping up with plain water it may not be. A garage can test it for you, or you can buy a tester from a car accessory shop.
While you’re there, make sure the battery terminals are tight and not corroded. Flat batteries are the biggest cause of winter breakdowns so don’t wait for your battery to fail, replace it in good time. And you make things easier for the battery by not switching on headlights, blowers or heated rear window until the engine is running.
5. Keep an emergency kit
Always carry an emergency kit in your car which includes jump leads, torch, shovel and de-icer. You might also want some bottled water and non-perishable food in case you get stuck, either in snow or in a lengthy traffic jam. Some extra warm clothing and blankets are worth adding as well.
6. Iced up door lock?
There’s no point leaving lock de-icer in the car if it means you can’t get to it when you need it, so make sure you keep some in the house or garage.
7. Drive gently
On slippery roads, drive slowly, smoothly and gently. Accelerate gradually, steer gently and brake smoothly.
8. Consider if your journey is necessary
Before you set off on a journey in icy or snowy conditions, consider if it is really essential to travel, or can it wait. It’s better to be safe than sorry.