No one likes the winter months. It’s dark, cold and there’s the pressure of Christmas. Cars are no different. They’re designed to run in even temperatures and when it gets below zero or the roads are drenched in rain, performance is affected. Even though there’s nothing you can do to dispel those horrible months of January and February, there are some easy steps that will get your car ready for winter.
Check the Battery
If there’s one part of the car that doesn’t like the cold weather, it’s your battery. The colder temperatures alone drain battery power faster. Then there’s increased use of heaters, lights and wipers generating a higher load, which puts more pressure on energy use.
Make sure you have enough charge to get you going and remember that a good trip on the road will spin the alternator and feed more electricity into the battery. Of course, if you can’t start the car in the morning, then you can always jump it into action.
Antifreeze in the Coolant
As soon as the winter weather starts knocking, and mix a bottle of antifreeze with your car’s coolant. Remember that you only want to top up the coolant when the car has been at rest. Open up the coolant tank when the engine is still cooling down and the coolant could spit out and burn you badly.
You’re aiming for a 50/50 mix between coolant and water. Get this right and your engine will run well in the cold. Get it wrong and there’s a chance your engine could overheat causing severe damage.
Test Your Lights
Sit your partner or a trusted friend in the driver’s seat of your car, and get them to turn the lights one by one as you walk around it. If there are any problems with the bulbs, simply take it down to your local parts dealer. Many of these will help you fit a bulb for free as it’s such a small job or you can potentially fix it yourself. This is an important part of getting your car ready for winter as you’ll be using lights lots more.
The cold air and freezing temperatures can actually decrease your tyre pressure. And with all that snow and ice potentially on the road you’ll want to have the best grip possible. Check our article that gives you everything you need to know about checking your tyres. Make sure they’re in good condition. It’s vital that the tread is deep and well maintained to grip slippery surfaces.
Clean the Windscreen
Before you go out and about in the wintery weather, you’ll want to do a proper job of de-icing your windscreen. Make sure you remove your wipers from the screen and give the ice a good old spray with the bottle of de-icer. This should loosen the layers of ice sufficiently to allow the scraper to do the rest of the hard work.
Before you head out, make sure you’ve properly de-misted the inside of your windscreen too. If you don’t you risk a £60 fine for ‘portholing’ and 3 penalty points too.
Then when you’re out on the road, make sure the car is well ventilated and the demisting system stays on. The last thing you want is your hot breath fogging the glass again and obscuring your vision.
Carry an Emergency Kit
Take some items and put them in the boot of the car in case of incredibly bad weather. Think of the vital stuff – a first aid kit, chocolate, a bottle of water, a high visibility jacket, a blanket, a torch, an emergency battery-powered phone charger and even a book if you get snowed in.
All of this stuff will prove invaluable, not only if you get stuck in a sudden flurry of awful weather, but could also save someone’s life if you come across a card that’s slid off the road.
Stop Delaying the Service
Yes, your car might feel great behind the wheel, but you know what? This doesn’t mean there’s not a problem. If your car is overdue a service then make sure you get down to the garage before the cold really kicks in. You’ll be thankful that everything is running well when you’re out on the road. The extra stress placed upon the engine by driving in the cold, can cause something to fail – if it’s going to fail it’ll be in the wintertime.
Change Your Oil
Oil is not immune from the cold either. During the worst months of the year, this fluid can actually become thicker as the temperatures drop. In some cases, your car will need to have a thinner oil, which lubricates your engine during the cold months.
Check your owner’s manual for more details to make sure that your vehicle has everything it needs to punch through the darker season.
Fuel for Thought
Remember when you’re driving around in the cold, the engine has to do more work and you’re likely to be out for longer due to adverse conditions. Take these facts into consideration when you’re driving around. Keep an eye on the fuel gauge to ensure you have enough juice so you don’t run out, stranding yourself.
A Final Word
And as with our article on driving in torrential rain – you’ll want to check that any journey in the worst of the wintery weather is vital. Stay at home if it’s not that important, you can always go on another day. We’d also advise you to avoid night driving. It’s tough in the winter and if it starts snowing or visibility drops then you could even get stranded. Stay safe and plan ahead.