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7th January 2020

Driving your car this winter

Winter driving is something many people dread. Bad weather, the poor condition of the roads and the short days all contribute to making driving at this time of year more challenging.  There are numerous things though that motorists can do to keep safe and reduce the risk of breakdowns or problems on the roads at this time of year.

Make sure your car is ready for winter

A pre-winter service is a really good idea and can help to prevent breakdowns and avoid unexpected problems.  Whether you take your car to be serviced at a garage or are carrying out a winter check yourself, these are some of the key things to include in your vehicle checks at this time of year:

Battery

There is nothing worse than a flat battery when you have somewhere to be.  Make sure your battery is in good working condition and fully charged. Carrying a set of jump leads in the car is also a sensible precaution at this time of year.

It’s worth remembering that the effective lifespan of a car battery is approximately five years. If your car doesn’t always start first time then that’s a clear sign your battery needs charging or replacing.

Tyres

Make sure your tyres have adequate grip and the tyre pressure is correct. The legal requirement is for a minimum of 1.6mm tread across three-quarters of the tyre, all the way round.  You can check what your tyre pressure should be in your car manual or find this information easily online for your specific vehicle and tyres.

Lights

Check all your lights are working and clean your lights regularly at this time of year as the dirt and salt can quickly build up causing your lights to appear dull.  Make sure your fog lights are working too in case of foggy conditions.

Engine coolant

Ensuring your engine coolant is topped up during the winter months is crucial as it contains anti-freeze.  Engine coolant does the important job of making sure your vehicle doesn’t overheat in summer or freeze in cold winter conditions. It is advisable to check to your owner’s manual for information on which coolant is most suitable for your vehicle and how often it needs changing and topping up.

Windscreens

Always check windscreens for any damage at this time of year. Even the smallest of chips can be affected by freezing conditions. Small chips can be easily repaired, but when left they run the risk of forming a much larger issue that can impair your vision of the road (and is more costly to resolve).

Many insurance policies include repairs to windscreens and minor repairs such as chips are often repaired without charging an excess so it is always worth checking with your insurer.

Ensure your washer fluid is kept topped up too as dirty, gritted roads will mean you use more of it than at other times of the year. It’s vital to make sure you use washer fluid not water in freezing conditions.

Driving in bad weather

It may seem obvious but allow extra time for journeys and check your route beforehand. If there are weather warnings in place then consider how essential your journey really is. If you do have to drive in really bad weather then take care to drive with the road conditions in mind and make sure you are prepared.

  • Have an ice scraper and de-icer in your car.
  • Wear practical shoes
  • Make sure you have your mobile charged or take a phone charger with you
  • If there is snow, a shovel is also a good idea
  • Take a drink, snacks and blanket with you in the car just in case

For more motoring tips follow SMF Motor on social media.