How to Prepare Your Car for Winter
As winter sets in, simply getting the car off the drive can be both challenging and time-consuming. Scraping ice and snow from the vehicle and demisting the windows can take a lot longer than normal, as can journeys themselves, once you finally get going. The risk of skidding and sliding increases in icy road conditions, as do the chances of breaking down.
But there are plenty of things that you can do to prepare yourself and your car for winter. Here are a few things to check that will help ensure that only roadworthy cars are on the roads.
Ensure Your Car Battery Is Fully Charged
Check whether your battery needs replacing. The cold weather itself can drain the power from your battery; add in the additional use of heaters and demisters and you can be left with a car that won’t start. You can buy a kit online to test the battery quite cheaply, and most garages offer the service too. It’s also worth having some jump leads in the boot should you need them, and maybe give yourself a quick refresher on how to use them.
Top Up Car Fluids
Check the fluid levels in your vehicle, such as antifreeze and screen wash, as no one wants to run out of washer fluid when filthy slush is being kicked up from the vehicles ahead of you. While water may be sufficient for the summer months, you may want to consider changing to a winter-specific fluid that won’t freeze in the cold.
Wipers and Windscreen
You should also check that your wiper blades are in good condition, with no nicks or splits in them, as this will help to make sure that you can always clear your windscreen properly to get maximum visibility. Finally, check the windscreen itself for any minor chips which, when cold, can suddenly become great big cracks.
Being seen on the road is really important for safety in the longer, darker winter months, so check that your lights are all working correctly and make sure you wipe away excess dirt and salt build-up regularly. It’s also a good idea to keep some spare bulbs in the boot of the car.
Make Sure Your Tyres Are up to Scratch
If you’re going to be doing a lot of driving in the winter, a new set of tyres, designed specifically for the season, may be a good investment. They offer much better grip at lower temperatures and when driving in snow and ice. If you decide not to opt for a second set of tyres, you should check the tread on your existing set to make sure they offer sufficient grip. Legally, you should have at least 1.6mm, but experts suggest that 3mm is far safer and can cut down braking distances in the wet significantly.
If you don’t feel that you have the time or the expertise to check your car and get it ready for winter, pop to your local garage or car shop, where the staff will be happy to do the checks for you.
Essentials for Long Car Journeys in Winter
Car safety in winter isn’t just about your vehicle, though. If you do break down or have a crash you will need a few extra essentials with you. You should really have your mobile with you and fully charged all year round, but it’s even more important in the winter. A walk across a couple of fields to the nearest phone might be quite relaxing at the height of summer, but it won’t be so appealing in the depths of winter. In winter, the emergency and breakdown services will be stretched and, if you need to call them, it’s likely to take them much longer to get to you, so you should be prepared to have to wait it out. An extra set of clothing and a blanket will help to keep you warm and some snacks and a drink will also be useful if you’re waiting for hours. Remember: depending on the situation, you may not be able to have the heating switched on in the vehicle. A scraper, shovel and torch will also prove useful if you need to dig yourself out, so make sure that you have some spare batteries for your torch. If you need prescription medicine, make sure you have it with you in case you’re away from home for longer than you expected.
So, to ensure that you stay safe this winter, take a little time to plan ahead, prepare your car and a survival kit so that you are ready should the worst happen and you break down or have a crash. Even small bumps and prangs can cost you more on your car insurance premiums in the longer term and can be a hassle to sort out at the time.
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