Drive Safe This Christmas: Getting Your Car Ready For Winter

Modern cars often insulate us so effectively from what’s going on that it’s easy to forget that they need any mechanical input from their driver at all. But if you want to stay safe travelling through the ice, rain, and mud on the road this winter, there’s some things that you should definitely get around to checking.

Tyres

Don’t under estimate the importance of your tyres. Think about it… they’re the only thing keeping your car on the road.

There are two things to look for here: Pressure and Tread.

Checking your tyre improves safety, but should save you money at the fuel pump too. Head down to almost any petrol station forecourt and make use of their “Air”. Check the recommended pressures for your car and wheels, this should be on the inside of a door jam and probably in the handbook too. Then, set the machine on the forecourt to the this pressure, hook the gun up to your tyre valve and the machine should correct them- just wait for the beep to tell you its done. If they were particularly low, checking them again a few days later could be a good idea- you could have a slow puncture.

The depth of the tread is important for cutting through all of the filth and water that finds its way onto the road in winter, let alone the possibility of snow. Think winter boots! The legal requirement is 1.6mm across the centre of the tyre, but that’s far from ideal… At least 3mm would be a better bet. The 20p test is an easy way to make sure things are good: just slot a 20p between the main grooves of all of your tyres and if the outer band of the coin is obscured you’re safe. Check that the wear is fairly even across each tyre, and look out for hidden bald patches- get down to a garage and have a wheel alignment done if there’s any unusual differences, just to make sure everything’s pointing in the right direction.

 

Battery

No one wants to be stuck in the cold with a car that won’t start. The most common reason for an engines reluctance to turn over in the winter is a dead battery as cold weather causes them to deplete faster than usual. If your car sometimes takes a while to get started and sounds a little wheezy, the battery is probably on its way out. You could carry a set of jump leads or a booster pack, but the ideal thing to do is head somewhere to get it tested, and replaced if need be.

Washer Fluid and Wipers 

Keep your washer fluid topped up! This is so so easy and again it’s the law, so there’s really no excuse. Just pop the bonnet and look for the reservoir cap like the one in the picture below. The symbol should be the same. Fill this with either ready mixed winter screen wash or a concentrated version that requires you to add the water yourself. Don’t just use water, because water freezes… which is bad obviously. Make sure your wipers aren’t leaving big streaks too. If they are, replace them.

It’s probably a good idea to keep a can of de-icer, or at least a scraper in your boot…

Lights

Winter’s dark too, so lights are important if you want to see where you’re going and ensure you’re seen by others. The last thing anyone wants when they’re driving home for Christmas is to be hit by Maureen in her Honda Jazz! Check that they’re all working, and buy new bulbs if not. They’re usually cheap and any decent parts shop will tell you which ones you need and probably help you to change them if you’re not too confident.

Fuel

Now this might sound trivial, but if you’re heading out, particularly into the snow, make sure you’ve got a little extra fuel in your tank. It’s unlikely to happen, but should you ever get stuck, you’ll want your engine running to run the heater whilst you wait for help to arrive to avoid a frosty death. 

Oil

If your car runs dry of oil, you’re gonna have a bad time (like irreparably bad)- yet still not enough people do it!  Things under the bonnet are even more stiff when it’s cold, so get checking- depending on your car, you might want to do this as often as every time you fill up.