Get your car ready and stay safe this winter
Published 3 October 2016 by Linzi Nuttall
The cold and wet weather is kicking in - get your car ready for the hazards ahead and try to avoid unexpected breakdown or repair costs.
The nights are drawing in, the kids are back at school, and before you know it winter will be upon us. As it gets colder and wetter, many of us will rely on the car to get us round. So whether you make short trips on local roads, or travel farther afield on busy motorways, make sure your vehicle is ready for the changing road conditions through autumn and winter.
Make sure you don’t get caught out and have to fork out for unexpected breakdowns or repairs, by following our top tips.
Get under the bonnet
A good place to start is under the bonnet. The AA claims that faulty batteries are the most common cause of winter breakdown. Your battery is going to be over worked in winter - starting the car in the cold, blasting the heating on to keep you warm and keeping the lights and heated windows running all demand a lot from your battery. Get your local garage to check yours. If your battery is nearing the end of its life it makes sense to replace it before it lets you down when you really need it.
As the temperatures plummet, you’ll want to avoid your radiator freezing. If it isn’t already, top it up with anti-freeze – in most cases you want an equal mix of water and anti-freeze.
Similarly, to avoid your screen wash freezing in sub-zero temperatures, it’s good to keep levels topped with a high quality product.
Whilst you are under the bonnet be sure to check your oil levels too. If it does need topping up, check your car’s handbook to ensure you buy the right grade for your vehicle’s make, model and engine size.
At this time of year, it's more important than ever to check your tyres frequently. Remember that the treads on your tyres help clear road water and provide grip on slippery roads. By law, your tyres should have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in from the central three quarters as a continuous band – but this is the minimum, and you may decide to replace yours before then, especially with winter approaching. If you don’t have run flat tyres, check your spare tyre too and ensure it's safe in case you do get a puncture.
If you live in a rural area you might consider winter tyres. You should only have these fitted once the temperature drops below a certain point. If you do fit winter tyres, be sure to let your insurer know – they may count these as a modification.
Add a winter motoring “survival kit”
Even though you’ve prepared your car there’s still a chance you could break down, or get caught in adverse weather or long traffic jams. So keep some essentials in the boot in case they’re needed. Store an extra coat or two, a blanket, a pair of rubber boots, a shovel, de-icer, scraper, a high-vis vest and a torch. It also makes sense to add some bottled water and a few snacks. These will give you energy and keep you going, in case you’re stuck for a long time.
Get journey ready and go steady
Before you set off, especially to a place you haven’t travelled to before, plan your route. Use traffic sites such as BBC Travel to get an idea of the driving conditions ahead. Modern satnav systems have traffic warnings and can help reroute your journey if yours is closed or congested.
Lastly, make sure your car is free of any ice or snow, and make sure all windows and wing mirrors have complete visibility. If you decide to keep the car running to get it defrosted and warm, don’t leave it unattended and risk opportunistic thieves taking advantage.
For peace of mind, you could choose a breakdown cover plan in case the worst does happen. This will help you get back on the road as quickly as possible. Before you do anything, double check with your insurer first to see if it’s already included as part of your insurance policy. If your car is quite new it might have cover provided by the manufacturer.