How to prepare your car for winter!
While the winter months may still seem far away, cold snaps are getting closer by the day. With the risk of single digit temperatures just around the corner we're getting ahead of the game by running you through some tips and tricks to get you and your car prepared for the darker days ahead.
Things to check
Anti Freeze - This stops the water in your car’s cooling system from freezing when it gets below a certain temperature. If your car is new and/or regularly serviced, chances are this has been checked and replenished if necessary. To check the level of the coolant most cars have an expansion tank in the engine bay with a minimum and maximum level. Consult your handbook for advice on what antifreeze to buy, especially if you live in a particularly cold climate as frozen coolant will lead to near-certain engine damage, which could cost thousands to put right.
Battery - The last thing you want is a car which won't start, even more so on a bitterly cold winter day. Cold temperatures really takes their toll on batteries during winter, especially if they're already showing signs of weakness during summer months. If your battery is more than 5 or 6 years old and unreliable, it may be worth replacing and usually costs around £50-£150 (fitted) depending on size, brand and fitting location. Halfords provides a number plate checker to show you which battery is right for your car - this can be found here.
Screen Wash - In winter we really see it all - rain, sleet, snow and plenty of road dirt. So having screen wash is important to keep your windscreen clean and smear free and yourself safe. Most ready mixed and concentrated screen washes (available from your local motor parts retailer or even supermarket) already contain antifreeze qualities so just keeping it topped up is all you need to worry about. Make sure to check your levels before going on a long trip to ensure you don't run dry while on the road!
Lights - Obviously during the winter the days are far shorter meaning headlights are used far more regularly. To check your lights are in order, either ask someone else to check all your lights (including fog lights) as you turn them on and off. Alternatively you can park up next to a reflective surface such as a garage door or large window and check your lights your self. If any of your lights aren’t functioning it could lead to a failed MOT or even worse, a Vehicle Defect Rectification Notice (VDRN) issued by the Police. Bulbs on older cars are cheap and easy to replace, and if you don't fancy getting your hands dirty, most Halfords Centres now have a bulb change service while-you-wait. On newer cars they can be expensive to replace due to the complexity of them. However, there is no cutting corners when it comes to lights - its critical for them all to be working, all the time - for your safety, and for the safety of other road users.
Heating - If your car is fitted with air conditioning, heated screens and heated seats, ensuring they are fully operational before winter hits could save you hassle in the future. It is quick and easy to check so it is definitely worth doing now.
Tyres - During cold, wet months it is important your car tyres have plenty of tread, this allows more water to be disbursed from under the tyre when driving giving your car more grip. If you live in an area which experiences a lot of snow or even if you don’t and your tyres are coming up to replacement, you should consider fitting winter tyres (or all-weather tyres). Specially designed to deal with harsh weather the effectiveness of them has increased greatly over the past few years as technology has improved. This article by the Telegraph explains all you need to know about winter tyres and if they are right for you.
TIP: should you want to buy some new tyres, websites such as blackcircles.com are a great tool for comparing tyres. Once you put in your car number plate and postcode, you'll be shown a selection of different tyres suitable for your vehicle, prices for fitting at a local approved garage and a simple online booking page. Handy if you are short of time!
Thing to have in the car
Here's a list of things we recommend keeping in your car during the winter, although many of these are worth having throughout the year:
- Phone charger - the last thing you want is to break down or have an accident and find you can't call for help because your phone's battery is dead. A cheap 12 volt phone charger could be a life saver in an emergency.
- Warning triangle - many cars have one of these in the boot somewhere, but if you don’t know where yours is it might be worth finding out so you're ready in the event of an emergency.
- Blankets - should you break down, often its far safer not to wait inside your car - especially in winter when collisions are more likely. Store some blankets in the car to keep you warm in an emergency.
- A coat - while blankets will keep you warm, they probably won’t keep you dry. We suggest keeping an old coat or two in the boot to protect yourself from the rain, which in cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia within minutes.
- De-icer and a scraper - you should never drive with a frosted windscreen and with all the products available nowadays there is no excuse. Clearing your windscreen with de icer only takes a couple of minutes and could save your life.
- Torch - as the days get shorter and the nights longer, a torch could help you in all kinds of situations.
- Bottled water - a bare essential for survival, but keep it in the cabin where its less likely to freeze.
Hopefully summer will stay around a little while longer, but we hope this article has explained how you can get ahead of the game and prepare yourself for the winter roads ahead! Thanks for reading.