As temperatures drop and the weather takes a turn for the worse, you’ll want to make sure that your car is prepared for the worst that winter can throw at it. Sub-zero temperatures, snow, ice and corrosive materials such as salt and grit can all take their toll on your vehicle. With a few simple pre-winter checks, however, you can make sure your car is ready for all weathers this winter…..
Check your battery: In sub-zero temperatures, a vehicle’s battery will lose voltage, or electromotive force. This coupled with the extra demands placed on it thanks to heaters, lighting, wipers etc all working overtime, means it could have a harder time getting started. Car batteries typically have a lifespan of around five years, so if yours is approaching this point you may wish to think about replacing it. At the very least you should get it tested by your local garage.
Check your coolant: While it’s always good practice to check your coolant levels regularly, it’s a must in the winter. Otherwise known as anti-freeze, it will protect your engine from freezing or seizing up, and potentially a costly repair. When your engine is cool, check the levels in the reservoir - if it’s low, it’ll need topping up with the right type and ratio; a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water is needed in winter. Most modern cars use a long-life anti-freeze, however some types will need changing after only a couple of years. To do this, you’ll need to flush your vehicle’s cooling system - if you’re unsure how to do this, take your car to your local garage.
Check your oil: At the same time, it makes sense to check your oil levels. Using your dipstick, check both the level and color of oil. Again, if it’s low top it up. If it’s anything other than its typical amber color, you’ll probably need to change it.
Check your lights: With shorter days during the winter months, you’ll want to make sure your lights are in good working order too. While most modern cars will display a warning light if a bulb is out, it’s worth checking all your lights - indicators, reversing, brake, fog and hazard lights – for blown bulbs, damage or dirt. Replace bulbs or clean as appropriate.
Check your windshield: The glare from low winter sun and other car’s headlights can easily obscure your vision. The best way to reduce this is by always making sure your windshield is clean, inside and out. First check the condition of your wipers. If they are cracked or split, or smear even when they are clean, they’ll need replacing. Similarly, check your windshield washer fluid levels and top-up throughout the winter as needed.
Check your glow plugs: Glow plugs are critical in helping diesel vehicles start in freezing temperatures. Have your local garage test your glow plugs or even replace them if they are a few years old – just one faulty glow plug could prevent your vehicle from starting. Even if they are still functioning, there could be problems which may lead to premature failure.
Check your tires: With the added hazards that come with wintery road conditions, it’s important that your tires’ tread is deep enough for a good grip. The greater tread depth you have, the greater the traction, and in winter at least 3mm is recommended. To check tread depth, use the tread bar on the tire, a tread gauge or a penny– simply insert the coin into the tread and if you can still see some of the outer band, which is roughly 1.6mm, then you’ll need a new tire. You should also check the tires’ pressure and inspect each wheel in turn for any signs of wear and tear. If you spot any issues, have your tires checked at a reputable garage or tires fitter. If they need replacing you may wish to invest in a set of winter or all-season tires for better grip in cold and wet conditions.
These simple and inexpensive checks will help keep you and your car warm and cozy this winter. However, nothing beats regular servicing by a qualified technician – this will help ensure your car is at its best all year round.