How to Preparing your car before winter

images (1)When winter arrives it’s important to know that your car is capable of dealing with the inclement weather, so we’ve produced a vital winter car checklist to ensure you don’t get caught out.

Breakdowns more than double during the winter months, as snow, ice, wind and rain cause havoc with driving conditions. However, a few simple winter checks can ensure both you and your car are prepared for what’s to come.

From quick winter car checks, such as testing washer fluid levels and ensuring your exterior lights are working, to the fitting of winter tyres, we have it all covered. Below you’ll find a list of checks and recommended purchases to help you and your car enjoy a trouble-free winter on the road.

Winter car maintenance checklist

It’s important to keep your car well maintained throughout the year, but this becomes even more vital during the winter months. The good news is that winter car checks really aren’t too different from normal maintenance procedures, however there are a few items that you should pay extra attention to:

 Check your car battery

Cold and damp weather is a battery killer. There’s little worse than the mechanical groan when you turn the key caused by a dying car battery. If your battery is struggling to start your car, the chances are it’s on its way out.

You can test the battery yourself if you have the correct equipment, but it’s far easier to ask a specialist. Assuming you can start the car, you can drive to your local main dealer or car spares shop to buy a new one. Most car battery stockists will even fit it for you.

• How to jump-start a car

Car battery prices vary, and can cost from around £60 fitted, although models fitted with stop-start systems can cost more than £100, depending on the size, type and the electrical current produced. There are dozens of combinations, so make sure you get the correct one.

If you can’t start your car, you can use a set of jump leads, or remove the battery and charge it indoors. This can be complex, not least because car batteries are heavy. You should always refer to the owner’s manual.

Check antifreeze

Antifreeze, as its name suggests, stops the water in the engine’s cooling system from freezing. To test the effectiveness of your antifreeze, you’ll need an antifreeze tester, which cost about £5. To use it, unscrew the coolant reservoir cap under the bonnet, after checking the engine is cold.

Lower the tube into the coolant and squeeze the rubber bulb on the end to suck some antifreeze inside the tester. You can then read the freezing point of the antifreeze using the scale inside the tester. Replace the antifreeze in the car’s system and replace the cap.

Check screen wash

Wintery weather is frequently wet, meaning you’ll spend lots of time using your windscreen wipers. There’s a high risk of them smearing grime across the windscreen if your screen wash bottle is empty.

To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, open the windscreen washer bottle under the bonnet, and fill it with screen wash. You can buy ready mixed or concentrated screen wash, which you’ll need to mix with water.

Screen wash has a lower freezing temperature than water alone, meaning you shouldn’t end up with frozen washer jets.

Check exterior lights

It sounds simple, and it is. The days are shorter and the weather is worse during the winter months, making maintenance of your exterior lights an important aspect of any winter car checklist.

Check and clean your lights regularly. The salt and dirt can quickly build-up, reducing visibility at night as well as during periods of snow, fog and rain. Carry extra bulbs in case of a failure.

Professional winter car checks

If you’ve not got the time to prepare your car for winter, then you can ask an expert to do it for you. Many main dealers and high street car spares shops can do this, and shouldn’t cost more than a few pounds. Some even offer free winter car checks.

Winter tyres

If you drive frequently in winter, then consider buying a set ofwinter tyres. They offer exceptional grip when the temperature drops below seven degrees, and in snow and ice. They’re not cheap, but well worth the investment for the additional safety they bring.

Even if you don’t want the extra cost of winter tyres, checking the tread depth of your existing tyres is important. The legal limit is 1.6mm, but having more than this can dramatically improve steering and braking. Also check your tyre pressures regularly.

Winter car equipment

Carrying an emergency kit with you at all times through the winter might seem a bit extreme – but if you ever find yourself stranded you’ll be glad of it. We recommend:

  • • A mobile phone and charger
  • • A hazard warning triangle
  • • Hi-visibility vest
  • • A first aid kit
  • • De-icer and a scraper
  • • A shovel
  • • A tow rope
  • • Wellington boots
  • • A torch
  • • Warm clothes
  • • Food and drink

And a decent set of car mats will not only protect your car’s carpets from wet or muddy feet, but can be wedged under the driven wheels to get you moving should you get really stuck in the snow.