Icy roads, poor visibility, freezing temperatures, there really is nothing to look forward to when driving in winter, but getting stranded in the middle of nowhere in rotten conditions can be not only inconvenient, but actually quite scary. So the best way to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you is to make sure you don’t break down and to get your car ready for the worst conditions of the season. Because even if you do belong to a breakdown service, they will be attending to more callouts and may not be able to get to you for some time. So what should you be checking? Here’s our list:
Tyres – check the treads
The legal minimum tread you must have on your tyres is 1.6mm across the central three quarters of each tyre’s surface, however, in winter the roads are going to be awash with rain, mud and possibly even snow, and the AA recommends at least 3mm for winter driving and certainly no less than 2mm.
Brakes – check for wear
If you are only going to check two things before winter arrives it should be tyres and brakes. It is worth taking your car to a reputable garage to get your brakes checked over for any visible signs of rust, scoring or excessive wear. You should also get the mechanic to check your brake fluid level.
Lights – check the bulbs
Lights are important, not only for you to see easily where you are going, but for you to be seen. Between darker evenings and inclement weather, you need to make sure you’re visible on the roads, so make sure your lights are in full working order. And don’t forget your sidelights, main headlights, fog lights, indicators, brake lights and reverse lights. The lights above your number plates should also be in full working order. And don’t forget to clean off any lights that have been covered with snow or ice during the night before you drive off in the morning.
Battery – check the remaining charge
When it is cold your battery will take the strain and will require much more power to get your engine going so make sure that is has enough charge and if not, you can buy a new one for only £30. It may make good sense to invest in a new one for the winter. Short journeys to work on cold mornings are the biggest drain on your vehicle’s battery, so avoid using heaters for longer than necessary and if it’s struggling to start, turn the ignition for short five-second bursts, if it doesn’t start, wait for 30 seconds before trying again.
Fluids – check your levels
Make sure you’ve got enough antifreeze in your car’s system, because frozen engine parts can cause all sorts of problems. Without antifreeze, the cylinder block could freeze and then crack once you start the car and it heats up. Your radiator could also freeze and stop coolant from circulating, causing your vehicle to overheat. Antifreeze is pretty cheap, but it’s important to get the right type for your car. Check your handbook or ask at a garage. In winter you should have a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze in the car’s cooling system, and glycol-based antifreeze should be changed every two years. Checking your oil level and topping it up if necessary only takes a couple of minutes. It’s also best to check the oil levels when your car is warm. Your vehicle’s handbook will tell you what kind of oil is best. If your car runs low on oil, your engine will seize, potentially landing you with a big repair bill.