Don’t the summer holidays seem like some distant memory? Overnight, it feels like those smooth summer drives have turned into dark, wet, miserable treks as you battle to get from A to B. Ok, we’ll admit it – the Lightfoot office is firmly in denial that winter is just around the corner.
So, with the inevitable storms, rain, fog and frost descending, now is the time to give your car the once over to check that everything is in a road-worthy condition. Consider the alternatives if you don’t. Freezing on the hard shoulder waiting for breakdown assistance. It’s not fun – trust us.
However, many car calamities are almost entirely preventable with a series of good maintenance checks, so here’s our list of the key winter car maintenance items to get reviewed this autumn.
Your battery takes a hammering during the winter months, powering the lighting, heating and electrics (plus any Christmas music singalong sessions). Newly installed batteries should last for around 5 years, but a car battery should still be checked occasionally to avoid finding yourself stuck one morning with a car that simply won’t start. The car manual masters, Haynes, have a full article on how to test your battery here (warning – you’ll need a multi-metre) or take it along to your local garage and they can check it for you.
Being able to see (and be seen) is fairly high on the list of critical safety elements, especially during the long winter nights. Your car will most likely use separate bulbs for your main lights, dipped lights, as well as your brake lights, fog lights, side lights, tail lights and indicators. Finding and fitting the correct bulb into the correct socket is now infinitely easier with most car centres able to provide the service for you for only a small charge.
Engine Coolant / Antifreeze
You’re going to need antifreeze in the system to, as the name suggests, keep the engine at the right temperature when it gets cold outside. It’s quite common to top this up over the year with extra water though, which can dilute the concentration of the solution – making the whole thing useless. So ensure whatever concentration you’re using is the right one.
Engine troubles aren’t far away if there’s not enough oil in your engine. First things first, you need the right oil. Secondly, you need to add the right quantity to the engine. Find out what type of oil your car needs here and watch the video below for finding out how to top up correctly.
The blades won’t work right if there’s nothing to clean the screen so ensure your screen wash is topped up. A solution of water with a small amount of washing up liquid normally does the trick.
It’s critical that you check the tread of your tyres, because they give you that necessary grip on wet winter roads and help to minimise your braking distances. It’s also a legal requirement (a minimum tread depth of at least 1.6mm, across 75% of the tyre, is needed at all times). You can easily check this with a standard 20p piece. How? We’ve put together a full article about how to check your tyre tread depth here.
Rain, hail, salt, grit… There’s a lot thrown at your car over the winter. If your blades start leaving marks then it means a replacement could be required, although give them a clean first and see if it solves the issue. Replacements are almost always easy enough to fit yourself (although car centres can fit them for a small fee) meaning you stay safe on the winter roads.
Winter Car Care Packages
If you’re struggling for time, most garages and vehicle centres will be offering free winter health checks at this time of year, where they can cover off all of these necessary items – hopefully meaning you’ll be safe, warm and able to carry on driving normal until the warmer weather returns. Whether you choose to maintain your car yourself, or have someone do it for you, either way – make sure you stay safe on the roads this winter.
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