How To Prepare Your Car For The Winter

With winter just around the corner, it`s vital to know how to prepare your car for cold weather. Read this article to learn about safety tips.

We all know that UK winters can get pretty cold. As temperatures drop, we take care of our homes by turning up the heating and putting an extra blanket on the bed. We keep ourselves warm by pulling out our cosiest clothes and curling up with hot drinks and hearty food. But what about our cars? 

Many people fail to prepare their vehicles for the winter months – but just like us, our cars need protection from the cold. What’s more, drivers are on average 20% more likely to have an accident in winter, and this number rises dramatically when there’s snow or ice on the road. As temperatures start to drop, let’s look at how to stay safe and prepare our cars for the coming cold weather.

Checking Your Car In Winter

It’s always important to keep on top of your car’s general maintenance, but this is especially true during the winter when breakdowns are both more common and more inconvenient. You should be checking your car periodically, once a week or so during winter, and before setting out on any long journey. The RAC recommends using the acronym FORCES to help remember your six basic checks :

  • Fuel - a simple and obvious one...check your fuel gauge to make sure you’re not going to get stranded;
  • Oil - mechanics estimate that one in every three cars on the road is low on oil. This leads to increased wear and tear on your engine and can lead to unexpected breakdowns. Simply pull your car’s dipstick and make sure the levels measure somewhere between the min and max marks. If you’re low, be sure to top up your oil;
  • Rubber - this includes both your tyres and your wiper blades. Your car’s wiper blades can crack or split over time, but they’re both cheap and easy to replace so it’s worth keeping on top of this. Your tyres are literally lifesavers in the winter, particularly in wet or slushy conditions. Check the wear of your tyres by taking a regular 20p coin and slotting it into the tread. If the coin sinks in far enough that you can’t see the rim at the edge of the coin, then your tyres are still in good condition. If you can see the outer edge of the coin poking up above the tread then your tyres are too worn to be safe and you should replace them. Remember also to check your tyre pressure to keep them at a good level;
  • Coolant - your coolant is in a closed system so you don’t need to check this all the time, just be sure to do so at the beginning of the winter. Make sure your coolant is topped up and that you have antifreeze in your system to stop it from icing over;
  • Electrics - in other words, your lights and battery. Check that your lights are not only working, but clean and not obscured by mud. Your battery use rises in the winter, and old batteries are more likely to die during this time of year. Make sure you don’t get stranded with a dead battery by having it tested at the start of winter in a garage. They should be able to check both the charging system and the drain on your battery, and give you an idea of its overall health;
  • Screen Wash - make sure your screen wash is not only topped up, but contains an additive that will stop it from freezing when temperatures drop below zero. With more mud, salt and slush on the roads, you’re likely to use more screen wash during winter, and you don’t want it turning into ice in your tank overnight.

Consider Making These Purchases

The most expensive items you may want to consider buying are winter tyres. This is not going to be a realistic option for everyone: they’re not cheap, and most drivers in the UK choose to fit them as our winters rarely get cold enough. However, if you live in a more remote, snowy area – the Scottish HIghlands, for example – or if you’re planning on taking your car on holiday somewhere in Europe that tends to get colder winters (ski trip, anyone?), you should seriously consider buying a set. The extra grip and performance in wet, slushy or icy conditions make them a good investment for safety-conscious drivers.

There are a number of items you may want to keep in your car in case of accidents or breakdowns. Consider keeping the following in your car throughout the winter :

Removable car mats - not just for muddy feet but for putting under the wheels if you get bogged in mud;

  • A torch;
  • An extra phone charger;
  • A de-icer / scraper - if you don’t have these and you use water to de-ice your windows in the morning remember to NEVER use hot water, as this can shatter the glass;
  • A first aid kit;
  • Jumper cables;
  • A change of warm clothes and Wellington boots;
  • A high-visibility vest.

Winter Driving Tips

Winter is hard on your car so the best thing you can do is plan ahead for possible breakdowns. The best thing you can do is keep your phone charged and try to keep a friend or family member updated if you’re going to be on the road for a long time. While rain and a bit of slush on the road isn’t the end of the world, if a cold front is coming through then it’s a good idea to check for local weather warnings. If there are reports of snow flurries or winter storms then it’s a good idea to stick to main roads as much as possible and try to avoid rural, hilly or smaller roads. Remember that your car is likely to use more fuel in the cold so be sure to keep your tank topped up.

Although the colder months see an increase in both breakdowns and accidents on UK roads, with the right preparation you can keep yourself safely moving throughout the winter.

This article was brought to you by Quick Car Finance, a leading UK car finance company for new and used cars.

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