Winter vehicle maintenance tips


A car is an expensive piece of kit, not just to buy, but to maintain as well.

In the winter your car could cost even more. A number of factors combine that put extra strain on the vehicle, making it more likely to break down.

With the coldest months of the year still ahead of us, it’s worth investing a small amount of time and money in preparing your car for winter, to reduce the risk of having to shell out big time for repairs.

Check your battery

This is one of the most important priorities. Your car’s battery is put under extra strain in the winter, because of increased use of lights and heaters. To add to this, the cold temperatures actually reduce the battery’s output, putting it under more strain.

Bear in mind that the average car battery will only last about five years. If yours is around that age, get it checked and replaced if necessary. Otherwise you could be in for a long, cold wait on the roadside.

To make sure your battery has a long life, keep use of electrical systems to a minimum and make sure you switch them off when you’re not using them.

Check your coolant

Coolant is needed to prevent your engine from overheating. It’s stored in a tank next to the engine itself.

The coolant should be made up of a mixture of water and antifreeze – check your owner’s manual to find out the exact ratios. Over time, the mixture gets depleted and diluted, making it less effective, and over winter cold temperatures can freeze the coolant, causing your engine to overheat.

To prevent this, regularly top up your coolant tank with antifreeze during the winter months.

Be aware that if your car makes a long squealing noise when you go to start it, this could mean the water pump is frozen and you should not attempt to drive the car until it’s thawed.

Check your tyres

Road conditions are obviously at their worst during winter. It’s essential that the tread and pressure of your tyres are checked, to make sure they’re up to keep traction on wet and icy roads.

The legal minimum tread depth on a tyre is 1.6mm, but during winter the RAC recommend 3mm, in order to cope better with icy surfaces.
As for tyre pressure, the recommended level for your car should be displayed somewhere on the chassis, or in your owner’s handbook. Cold weather causes tyre pressure to drop, so make sure this is checked and topped up regularly during winter months.

Check your screen wash and wipers

Winter weather can cause very poor visibility on roads, due to dazzle from low sun and muck and grit kicked up from the roads, so it’s especially important to keep your windscreen as clear as possible.
Check your wipers for damage by lifting them up off the screen and running your finger along the blade. Also make sure your wipers are switched off when you park the car, otherwise they can freeze to the windscreen and get damaged when the car switches back on.

Finally, check your screen wash regularly, and add a little antifreeze during winter months. Don’t use engine antifreeze though, as this will damage your paintwork.

Keep your screen and lights clean

Your screen should be cleaned both inside and out. Screen wash alone is often not enough to clean the outside properly, so you’ll need to use a little elbow grease!

Try using a cream style glass polish, preferably with added abrasive particles.

Use the same technique to clean your headlight lenses, which can get very murky from dirt and grime over winter months.

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