Rebecca Taylor | Thursday 12th December 2019 12:13pm
Winter can really take its toll on vehicles. From faulty electrics to cracked windscreen wipers, you might experience a whole range of problems behind the wheel when colder weather sets in. According to recovery service provider Green Flag, the final week of December is the time of year when drivers are most likely to suffer a breakdown.
So if you want to save yourself the hassle of a vehicle breakdown this chilly season, here are five ways to reduce the risk of a car-related mishap. We also offer advice to help you ensure youíre prepared should the worst happen this winter.
1. Pay attention to your battery
However, there are things you can do to prevent your battery from going flat. For example, if you tend to only use your car for short journeys, consider charging the battery at least once a week during cold spells. This is especially important if your battery is over three years old. Also, make sure you switch all electrical loads off at the end of a journey before you turn the engine off. This includes your lights, heater, radio and windscreen wipers. Doing this will help to ensure you donít drain the battery unnecessarily the next time you switch the engine on. Itís also a good idea to avoid using things like heated seats and heated screens for longer than you need to, and donít leave in-car sat navs or MP3 players connected when youíre not using them as this can also drain the battery.
Look out for signs of corrosion on your battery cables and clamps too. This can limit the flow of current. If you spot any corrosion, clean this using a wire brush - ensuring the engine is switched off first. If youíd rather not do this yourself, ask a technician to do it for you.
Another tip is to park your car in a garage if you have one, rather than leaving it on your driveway or the street. This will protect the battery from the very lowest temperatures.
Older batteries can still struggle even if you take these steps, so if youíve noticed that yours isnít holding a charge well, it may be time to get a new one.
2. Check your tyres
By law, your tyres are required to have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm, but safety experts recommend that you get them replaced when they wear down to 3mm - and this is especially important when youíre driving in difficult weather conditions such as snow, ice or heavy rain. Having plenty of tread on your tyres helps with traction and grip, making it easier for you to keep control of your car. As well as paying attention to the tread, look out for general signs of damage including cracks, splits and bulges. If you notice any problems, get your tyres checked out by an expert and, if necessary, replaced.
Itís also important to keep your tyres inflated to the right pressure. This will improve handling and minimise the risk of a blowout, which can be particularly dangerous when road conditions are poor.
3. Give your wiper blades a once over
Wiper blades donít last forever, and you donít want to discover that yours need replacing when youíre driving in snow or rain. The grit thatís used to keep roads free from ice during the winter can quickly cover your windscreen in a dirty film, making it impossible to see clearly unless you have properly functioning wipers. So, nowís the time to give your blades a once over, checking them for cracks and splits. If you see any sign of damage, change them as soon as possible.
4. Keep an eye on coolant, oil, screen wash and fuel levels
Although your carís coolant system is sealed and therefore shouldnít need to be topped up, itís a good idea to check just in case - especially before a long journey. Make sure you check the level when the engine is cold, and if you do need to top it up, refer to your handbook to make sure youíre using the right coolant.
Keep tabs on your screen wash level too, and always use a good quality wash additive or pre-mix that wonít freeze down to temperatures at least as low as -15įC.
Running too low on oil can be very bad news for your car engine, potentially leading to catastrophic damage. Itís never a good time for this to happen, but itís especially worrying if this causes you to breakdown in winter. You could find yourself waiting for a recovery vehicle for a long time in unpleasant, cold conditions. So, make sure you check your oil levels and top them up if theyíre low.
It might sound obvious, but always ensure you have enough fuel before setting off on a journey. When temperatures dip, you really donít want to get stranded.
If your carís due to have a service soon, get it booked in now. This will help you to keep your vehicle in the best possible condition and avoid any nasty surprises over winter. Even if youíre not due a full service, you might want to book an interim service, or you could simply call in at your local Kwik Fit centre for a free vehicle safety check.
5. Always be prepared
Taking these steps will help you to avoid a winter breakdown, but thereís always a chance that youíll find yourself in difficulty during the colder months. In case this happens, itís important to be prepared by keeping some emergency supplies in your car, including warm clothes, bottles of water and snacks such as energy bars. If youíre setting off on a long journey and snow is forecast, you might also want to take waterproofs, sturdy footwear and a shovel.
Other useful items can include an ice scraper, torch, portable phone charger, high-visibility jacket, first aid kit, jump start cables and reflective warning signs.
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