As temperatures drop and the weather worsens, it’s important that you make sure your car is prepared for anything winter might throw at it. Our British weather is particularly unpredictable, and you don’t want to get caught out, so it’s wise to prepare for the worst.
Here are five things you can do to ensure that you and your car are safer on the roads this winter.
Ensure your tyres are fit for the job
You should always make sure that your car’s tyres are in good condition, but this is absolutely vital during the winter months when the roads can be particularly treacherous.
Start by taking a close look at your tyres and examining them for any cuts or bulges. If you do see any signs of damage, it’s worth consulting a professional and exchanging your tyres if necessary.
You also need to ensure that your tyres’ tread is adequate, so they can grip the road properly. In the UK, having a tyre tread below the lawful 1.6mm minimum can lead to a fine of £2,500 and three penalty points on your licence for each illegal tyre. This is because allowing your tyres to go bald can put you and other drivers at risk — especially when roads are wet or icy.
To check the tread of your tyres, try using the 20p test, as outlined by TyreSafe. To do so, simply insert a 20p piece between the grips on your tyres to see if its outer band is visible or not. If it is, your tread isn’t deep enough and your tyres will need to be changed.
Additionally, you need to be checking the pressure of your tyres regularly, as this will ensure that they’re providing the right level of grip. Check your vehicle’s user manual to determine the right pressure rating for your car or, alternatively, use a tool like the one you’ll find at Tyre-Pressures.com, which will allow you to find the correct pressure by simply searching your registration or car model.
If your tyres do need replacing, it might be worth investing in a set of winter tyres, especially if you live in the countryside and spend a lot of time on B roads. These tyres are made from a softer compound that has been specifically designed to provide high levels of grip in temperatures of 7°C and below.
Check your oil level
Oil is required to keep your engine running smoothly and without friction. So, if you allow it to run out, your car won’t be able to function and you might be left stranded by the roadside. Therefore, it’s vital that you check the level of your car’s engine oil about once a month, and top it up when necessary.
To check your oil level, ensure that you’re parked on a level surface. Then, locate the oil dipstick in your engine, remove it, and wipe it clean. Next, click it back into place and remove it once more. You’ll be able to see the optimum level of oil marked on the stick, as well as the level that you’re currently working with. If you’re running low, use a funnel to top it up with oil that’s suitable. Popular Mechanics has a great guide to choosing the right motor oil for your car, which should help with this decision if you’re unsure of the type of oil you need.
Replace worn windscreen wipers
Visibility is key when you’re driving in bad weather, so it’s incredibly important that your windscreen wipers are in good condition before you set out on the road in winter. You should check the condition of your windscreen wipers at least every six to 12 months, according to The Windscreen Company, and this is incredibly easy to do yourself. Firstly, lift them up so their rubber blades are away from your windscreen and you can then check whether there are any signs of damage, such as cracks and tears.
If you decide that they’re past their best and need to be replaced, this is quite simple to do, too. There are ‘hook and arm’ wipers, as well as ‘flat’ wipers, which each require a different fitting technique. So, check your vehicle’s user manual, which should give you all of the information you need.
Once you’ve fitted your brand-new set, look after them properly to extend their lifespan. DriveDen’s wiper maintenance guide recommends that you clean them once a month with white vinegar, which will help to protect the rubber.
Check your battery
Freezing cold weather can put a lot of strain on your car and its engine, which often means that its battery will have to work harder. This can result in your car battery running flat a lot quicker than it usually would.
If you frequently encounter adverse weather conditions and are concerned about this happening, it might be wise to invest in a portable battery charger to use if the worst does happen.
Keep an emergency kit in your car
You can take all of the precautions in the world and, for one reason or another, your car could still break down. At this point, having an emergency kit full of essentials in the boot of your car will serve you very well.
In this kit you should keep extra engine oil, washer fluid, some spare wiper blades, a warning triangle, a tyre pump, jump leads, a torch and some salt. These will all come in very handy if you find yourself stranded at the side of the road in awful winter weather.
By properly preparing your car for the winter months, you’ll help your vehicle to perform much better, whatever the weather. So, follow the tips above and you’ll be a lot safer on the roads.