Winter weather can be challenging but being prepared will make sure you’re home, safe and dry, without disruption.
The reliability of your car can suffer in severe weather conditions. We’ve put together a simple guide to help you avoid car trouble in the winter:
Under the bonnet
A flat battery is one of the most common causes of breakdowns during the winter. Here are some tips for maintaining battery life:
- Make sure your battery is fully charged before you go on any long journeys
- Only use heaters and lights when you absolutely need to
- Car batteries tend to last about 5 years. If your battery is older than that you should consider replacing it
- Don’t leave your car unused as a battery is less likely to fail if there’s a frequent charge running through it
For a guide on checking your battery, go to our car maintenance tips page.
Oil is vital to the performance of your car and running on low oil levels risks permanent damage to the engine.
- Keep your oil system clean and the oil at the right level to keep your engine working efficiently
- Use the dipstick to make sure the oil level is consistently sitting between the minimum and maximum mark
- Think about changing your oil if you plan on using your car in very cold weather. Using an oil designed specifically for winter make it easier for the engine to start from cold.
Anti-freeze prevents your car’s engine and radiator from freezing over and causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage.
- Check the handbook that came with your car for recommended anti-freeze
- Some types of anti-freeze need to be changed more often than others so check the manufacturers guide
- Use a half water, half anti-freeze mix for protection from freezing temperatures
Make sure your tyres are in good condition, ensuring your car is easy and safe to drive especially during the winter.
- Experts recommend a 3mm tyre tread during winter and no less than 2mm all year round
- Check tyre pressure with a pressure gauge every week during the winter making sure it’s at the correct level (this can be found in your car’s manual)
- Ignore any advice that says letting out tyre pressure for added grip, this isn’t effective and can be dangerous
Having a clear windscreen is a must for keeping yourself safe when road conditions start to deteriorate. Even if this does mean getting up 10 minutes earlier to de-ice your car.
- Remove any loose snow from your roof to stop it from falling onto your windscreen and obstructing your view
- Repair small cracks or chips as they could grow during adverse weather conditions
- Make sure you keep de-icer and a scraper in your car for mornings when your windscreen is iced over
- Turn on your air conditioning while you’re de-icing the windscreen to prevent it fogging up
- Check your screen wash is full as you might need it more regularly during the winter
In wintry conditions you’ll need your headlights to be in full working order for the best visibility possible.
- Double check that all bulbs are working and change any that look dimmer than usual
- Clean all lenses to get rid of any dirt or snow
- Carry a set of spare bulbs in your car
- Keep lights on when conditions are less than absolutely clear regardless of time of day
Stopping distances are increased significantly when the weather is icy or snowy so checking your brakes is crucial.
- Check your brakes for any rattling or squeaking as this could mean they need attention
- If they feel soft underfoot it could mean they are worn and need to be repaired
- Listen out for a grinding noise. This means the pads need replacing and your brake discs could be at risk
For a guide on checking your brakes, go to our car maintenance tips page.
Emergency Survival Kit
It’s a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your car in case you break down, if you get stuck in traffic and just for peace of mind.
Here’s a number of items you should think about keeping in your kit:
- Jump leads
- Torch with batteries
- High-visibility vest
- A blanket
- Phone charger
- Cereal bars
- Bottled water
- First aid kit
Locks and hinges
Frozen locks and hinges can make doors and locks hard to open.
- Avoid using Vaseline or WD-40 on locks and hinges, instead use a silicone lubricant or rubber care stick
- You can also heat your key with hot water or a lighter before putting it into a frozen lock
Preparing your car for winter weather won’t take long but a few small changes and checks will reduce the possibility of an accident or breakdown.