Cosy nights in. Christmas. Hot chocolates. These are just a few of the good things about winter – and, unfortunately, driving is not one of them. Driving in winter is a little trickier than in the summer, given you have to contend with dark mornings and dark evenings, frosted windscreens and all types of weather while out on the road. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to extend summer for a bit longer – but there are things you can do to make sure your car is prepped and ready for the winter. We’ve put together a list of checks and fixes you can do to make sure your car is in ship-shape condition so that it can last the cold snap:
- Check your lights
- Check your tyres
- Replace your screen wash
- Top up the antifreeze
- Store the essentials
1. Check your lights
As we get further and further into the year, long gone are the sunny morning drives we’re used to in summer. You’ll be driving to work in the dark, and more than likely, driving home in the dark. Due to the amount of night-time driving you’ll likely be doing (considering night usually lasts from 5pm until 8am in the winter), it’s really important your lights are working efficiently. Check your lights now to see if they’re working – if one of them isn’t, you’ll want to replace the bulb before winter properly kicks in. Not having all your lights working could reduce your visibility out on the road, as well as making it harder for you to see what’s coming up ahead, so it’s vital that they’re in working order. Be sure to check your full beam works, as well as your fog lights too, as these may be needed in the harsher weather conditions of the winter. You’ll also want to clean the lights, particularly if dirt or residue has built up, making them look dim or discoloured.
Make sure you continue to carry out these checks over the winter months. It’s a common sight to see a car with a light out on the road, but you can be pulled over by police if your lights aren’t all working correctly, so make sure you’re aware if a bulb goes and can get it repaired. It’s also worth getting used to remembering to put your lights on, if they don’t work automatically – the chances are you won’t have used them much over the summer, so it might slip from your mind to turn them on before you pull off.
2. Check your tyres
Whether it’s heavy rain, ice or snow, your tyres have a lot to contend with over the winter months. Due to this, it’s sensible to make sure your tyres are in good condition before winter hits. This means inspecting the general condition of your tyres (including searching for bulges, cuts or bald patches), checking your tyre pressure and checking your tyre tread. A tyre that is uninflated or with a low tread depth might be more prone to going flat or blowing, and it may also affect the car’s grip on the road, with may be particularly hazardous when wet or icy.
You can easily check your tyres yourself – most local garages will have a tyre pressure gauge so you can make sure your tyres are correctly inflated, and you’ll be able to find the ideal pressure for your car in your owner’s handbook. You can also find out how to check your tread depth with a quick test using a 20p coin – remember that the minimum depth is 1.6mm, so anything beneath this means you’ll need a new tyre.
3. Replace your screen wash
When you drive during the winter, there’s a strong chance you’ll end up a dirty windscreen. The mix of rain, sleet, snow, ice, and general road dirt can often make it hard to see, so it’s likely you’ll be reaching for the screen wash more than usual. That’s why it’s worthwhile checking the level of screen wash you have now and topping it up if you’re running low.
Don’t be tempted to just top up with water either – screen wash has a lower freezing temperature than water, meaning it’s less likely to turn to ice in the cooler weather. And while you’re checking the screen wash, it’s worth checking the quality of your wipers too to make sure they’ll actually clear your windscreen instead of smearing the dirt around.
4. Top up your antifreeze
As you may guess from the name, antifreeze is pretty important in the colder months. This is what stops the water in your engine’s cooling system from freezing, so it can save a serious car problem by having it topped up.
You can check your antifreeze level yourself by using an antifreeze tester, which you can buy for a relatively low price, or you might want to take it to your local garage to ask them to check. Either way, it’s key to make sure you’ve not run out ahead of the cold weather.
5. Store the essentials
Winter is a common time to breakdown or get stuck out on the road – particularly in the case of hazardous weather – so it’s a good idea to have some essentials in your car in case the worst happens. These include:
- A charger for your mobile – in case you get stranded and your battery dies
- A hi-vis and a warning triangle – for visibility should you breakdown
- De-icer and a scraper – to clear ice from your windscreen
- A blanket – in case you get stuck in the cold weather and need to warm up
- A spare tyre or puncture repair kit – so you can quickly change a flat tyre
- A shovel – for getting snow off the road
- Extra screen wash – in case yours runs out
- A torch – should you breakdown at night and need to find your way
- Food and drink – in case you get stranded and need refreshments
Hopefully you won’t breakdown – but if you do, it’s better to be prepared. Whether you love or hate winter, there’s no keeping it away, which is why it’s important for your car to be ready. Doing these simple checks and fixes now will only take you a small amount of effort – but they could potentially save a huge headache over the coming months.