Is Your Car Ready for Winter?

Car in snow

Safety should be at the forefront of your mind every time you sit down at the wheel, no matter what time of year it is.  However, during the winter, driving is particularly hazardous.  The days are getting shorter, visibility is poorer, and the roads are likely to be wet or icy.  Here are a few tips to help you look after your car, stay safe, and avoid costly repair bills during the winter months:

Staying on Top of Basic Maintenance

Freezing night-time temperatures and gritted roads can play havoc with your car.  If you want to make sure that your car survives the winter, make sure you follow these basic maintenance tasks:

  • Top up your anti-freeze:  You car’s radiator should contain a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water.
  • Check the body: before the weather starts getting bad, walk around your car and make sure that the bodywork is clean, the paint is not chipped, and there are no rusted areas.
  • Replace the windshield wipers – if your wipers are cracking or losing their flexibility, fit new ones immediately.
  • Clean the battery connectors – this will help you avoid starting problems on a cold winter morning.
  • Check your oil – you should really be checking your oil levels every month.  If you can’t remember when you last changed your oil, maybe it’s time to change it now?
  • Check your tyres – if snow and ice are forecast, consider getting winter tyres fitted
  • Inspect your brakes – if they’re looking worn, get them replaced.  If one side is more worn than the other, this is a sign of a problem and you should get it looked at.

Safe Winter Driving

The UK has more relaxed rules than other parts of Europe when it comes to winter driving.  For example, in Sweden and Germany, winter tyres are mandatory, and many drivers carry snow chains to use when driving conditions get particularly bad.  There are no such requirements in the UK because heavy snow is less common.

Some rules that drivers should follow include:

  • Visibility – all your bulbs must be working, and your lenses must be clean.  You should also make sure that your vehicle’s number plates can be seen at all times.
  • Tyres – make sure your tyres meet the minimum tread requirements – ideally you should have 3mm of tread for winter motoring.  Do not reduce your tyre pressures in an attempt to get more grip, it won’t help, and could make your vehicle less stable.
  • Clear snow off the roof, the whole windscreen, and number plates before you drive away.  Don’t drive off with just a small area cleared on the windscreen – loose snow could slide off your roof and obscure your view.
  • Watch your speed, and give yourself more room than usual for braking in bad conditions.
  • Gentle movements are safer, and more likely to work in icy conditions.
  • If you must abandon your car because of a sudden change in the weather, find somewhere safe to park, don’t just leave your vehicle randomly by the side of the road.

car covered in snow

Photos by mathplourde, and Linda N.

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