Autumn is here, and the really cold months will soon be upon us. So it’s very important that you get your car/s ready – as well as our homes and our wardrobes – for the chilly months ahead.
We all take our cars and their reliability for granted, unless like me and others driving a classic car, which tend to be a little more temperamental. No-one wants to hear the sudden, dreaded clunk of an engine shutting off, or overheating, or tyres blowing out – only to find ourselves stranded at the side of the road in the freezing cold. So, what can we do to help make sure our cars won’t let us down when the temperatures plummet? Here’s our checklist, we hope it’s helpful for you:
Check those Tyres
Quality tyres are essential for winter driving; after all, they are the only parts of your car that actually make contact with the road. The risk of skidding increases on wet and icy roads, but tyres – together with safe driving – should keep you on track. Check your tyres every week, making sure that they are inflated to the correct pressure (which you can find in your car’s user manual) and have decent tread. While the legal tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm, the RAC recommends 3mm which will help you to maintain good grip when driving in adverse weather conditions. If you live in very cold, icey or snowy conditions, you’ll probably want to get winter tyres, or snow chains.
If your wipers squeak or leave a smear on the windscreen they need replacing. Simple really. They should be changed around once a year to guarantee maximum performance – a new set should ideally be bought in autumn, ready for the winter season. To prolong their life, shift excess debris or snow from the screen yourself before getting in your car and turning them on.
Antifreeze is the liquid that stops the water in your engine’s cooling system from freezing up (which could cause serious issues). If it hasn’t been replaced in the last couple of years, flush the system and top up with a 50/50 mix with water. Pop to a garage if you need a hand, as some may be willing to check and/or change it for free.
Iced up door lock?
There’s no point leaving lock de-icer in the car if it means you can’t get to it when you need it, so make sure you keep some in the house or garage.
Has your car battery ever let you down when you need it most – when you’re just about to set off on your holiday, leave for work, or worse, leave the office for home? Car batteries are put through their paces during the colder months, powering things like your wipers and heating – plus, they have to bear the brunt of sub-zero temperatures. If you don’t know your way around a car, it’s best to have the battery tested by a mechanic. But there are a number of things you can do personally to preserve battery life, like turning down the heating once your car is warm enough, using a trickle charger (a battery charger that charges at a low amperage) when the car’s not in use, and switching on the wipers, heater and lights only when you’ve started the engine.
Lights and visibility
The simplest check of them all: are all of your car’s lights working? If a bulb is broken, replace it as soon as you can. You may want to consider upgrading the light bulbs for extra power/ light. Wash your car regularly, paying particularly attention to the windscreen, windows and lights to ensure maximum visibility when you’re driving in the dark or in bad weather.
If you’ve ever found yourself stranded at the side of the road before, you’ll know it’s not a pleasant experience, particularly when it happens at night and during bad weather. So, it’s always best to prepare for the unexpected by putting together an emergency kit and storing it in your boot. That kit could include:
- Torch and extra batteries;
- Warm clothes;
- Water and snacks;
- Hazard warning triangle;
- Jumper cables;
- Mobile phone charging powerpack; and
- Ice scraper and de-icer (these should be kept in your glove box, anyway).
On slippery roads, drive slowly, smoothly and gently. Accelerate gradually, steer gently and brake smoothly.
Consider if your journey is necessary
Before you set off on a journey in icy or snowy conditions, consider if it is really essential to travel, or can it wait. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
So there you have our top tips. Let us know if you have any top tips as well. Safe driving.