How to prepare your car for winter
The nights are drawing in and there’s a distinct chill in the air. However, the main indicator over winter is our inbox becoming packed full of tips and hints on winter driving, car care and preparation.
So, without all the ‘buy our winter tyres’ sales spiel, we’ve compiled the best advice around for preparing your car for the winter, and what to do when you take it out in adverse weather conditions.
Preparing your car for winter
As with our summer driving guide, there are certain things you should always check your car for, regardless of the conditions.
Check your oil is at the right level. This is done by locating the dipstick (a long piece of metal) and pulling it out. Give it a wipe then dip it back in to check the level. If it’s low, add a bit more, but be careful, it’s difficult to take oil out once it’s in.
Check your battery is fully charged. This is one of the main causes of winter breakdowns so it is essential to ensure it is fully charged.
Check your tyres are in good condition and the tread depth is at least 1.6mm around the whole circumference in the inside three-quarters.
Also, tyres need to be the correct pressure. Incorrect pressure can lead to further damage for the tyres, which can spell disaster in poor weather.
Check your lights are working and clean to improve visability.
Check the rest of your car such as wipers (and washer bottle), air conditioning and windows.
It may sounds obvious, but always ensure you have enough fuel for the journey.
Before setting out
In the winter, the worst case scenario is being stranded in snow or rain. In the case of a breakdown, always carry warm clothes, a fully charged mobile phone, torch, spade and some food and water.
Also, keep things like an ice-scraper and de-icer in the car. Never try to use anything else to remove ice from the windscreen, and never use water because it could freeze and damage the windscreen.
To de-ice a car, slowly warm it up using the heating system to de-mist the windows. Remove the ice from the windscreen with de-icer or a scraper. Always make sure you have the right amount of additive in the screenwash to prevent freezing.
Finally, never set off until you have full visibility from the windscreen, side windows and side mirrors.
Driving in winter
In snowy, wet or icy conditions you will soon see the need for maintaining your tyres. In wet conditions, the tread stops the car aquaplaning and skidding.
Always keep a steady speed and gently apply brakes and acceleration. Sudden braking could cause the car to skid in ice and water.
If the car does slide, stay calm (I know, easier said than done) and keep your feet off the brake of accelerator.
The key to driving safely is in anticipation. Always anticipate what is happening, or may happen, up ahead. If you can react early, it could stop a potential situation escalating into a full-blown accident.
What to do in the event of a winter breakdown
Accidents happen, and no matter how prepared you are the unpredictable weather is sure to claim a few victims over winter.
In the event of a breakdown, the following advice could be useful.
- Consider you own safety first - if possible get your vehicle off the road and ensure all passengers are safe and be careful of ice
- Do not stand between your vehicle and oncoming traffic and wear a fluorescent tabard or jacket as visibility may be reduced
- If you are on a motorway, get out of the car and wait for help to arrive - this is why you will need your blankets and gloves! On smaller roads remain in the vehicle
- Warn other road users - switch on your hazard warning lights if you are causing an obstruction and put a warning triangle behind you, but never use a triangle on a motorway
- Call for help using your mobile phone and give clear details of your location, number of passengers and cause of breakdown