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How to get your car ready for winter

Jack Dreyer | Wednesday 28th September 2022 2:05pm

Blog banner showing large amounts of snow on a car tyre, the text reads the title of the blog.

When the cold starts to set in, frosty windscreens are the least of our worries when it comes to our cars.

Winter can be a harsh season for your vehicle but planning ahead can mean the difference between getting home for Christmas or being stuck by the roadside waiting for breakdown assistance.

But even if the worst should happen, be sure you pack some essential items to make the wait for rescue a little more bearable! Read on to ensure you and your car are prepped this winter.

Winter car checks you can do yourself

Getting your vehicle ready to take on winter doesnít need to be difficult. Here are some basic car maintenance tips that can help your car to survive the season.

Wipers & screenwash

Car windscreen wipers, wiping off rain whilst driving on a road at night.

Check your screenwash bottle and top up regularly. A lot of dirt and grime ends up on the windscreen during the winter months so having plenty of screenwash will help to maintain your view. Use a mixture of at least 50% undiluted screenwash in your bottle to prevent the liquid freezing.

You should also make sure your windscreen wipers are in good working order. It can be difficult to see when driving in conditions such as snow and fog. Donít make your journey any harder than it already is this winter by having a dirty windscreen that you canít clear due to damaged wipers.

Lights

Close up of car headlights in the rain.

It feels like it gets dark as soon as we wake up when itís winter, so properly-functioning headlights, brake lights, fog lights, and indicators are absolutely essential.

Check all your lights are working and clean them regularly. Dirt can easily build up on your headlights, hindering your vision of the road and potential hazards.

Ensure that you replace blown bulbs as soon as possible. Not only is this an instant MOT fail but other road users may not be able to see you clearly in wintry conditions.

Tyres

Muddy rain water splashing up on to a car as it drives through a big puddle.

The weather throughout the winter days tends to cycle between really cold and moderate. This variation in temperature causes the rubber in tyres to expand and contract which, in turn, can lead to the rubber splitting or changes in tyre pressure.

For this reason, itís crucial to check your tyres every few weeks in winter.

Adequate tread is critical to help tyres grip cold icy roads and to avoid aquaplaning. We recommend making sure you have at least 3mm of tread on all your tyres - the more tread you have, the shorter your stopping distance will be on cold, wet, or icy roads. If you do a lot of winter driving, consider fitting all-season or winter tyres for added grip and control in the snow.

Coolant levels

Person pouring antifreeze coolant into a car.

Coolant is stored in a bottle near the engine and is usually a bright pink or blue colour Ė check your vehicle handbook if you are having trouble finding it.

Coolant, also known as antifreeze, protects your engine from extreme cold temperatures by raising the freezing point of the fluids within. If the fluids in your engine were to freeze and expand, the engine block could crack, causing serious and costly damage.

We advise that you check your coolant level regularly and top up if necessary.

Battery

Person opening their car bonnet and using a battery tester to ensure their battery carries on working effectively. to

If your car battery is more than 5 years old, have it checked regularly to ensure it carries on working effectively.

Batteries naturally lose their charging capability over time but during the winter, the cold takes its toll and a fully charged battery is weakened by about 35%. Batteries are the number 1 cause of breakdowns, so if youíve been having trouble starting the car lately, get your battery checked before winter really hits.

Checks to have a garage do

A mechanic doing maintenance work on a vehicle.

Unfortunately, itís impossible to check all the core components of your car at home to assess how prepared it is for winter! But you can take it to a garage for specific checks or an overall service. These may include:

Brakes

The stopping distance is already increased significantly in wet and icy weather, so pair this with worn brakes and itís a recipe for disaster.

Make sure that youíre aware of how your brakes are behaving: if your car pulls to one side, your brakes feel spongy or unresponsive, or your brakes make strange noises, book an inspection with your local garage as soon as possible.

Itís worth remembering that if youíre having trouble with your brakes, you should try to avoid driving at fast speeds.

Air conditioning

Itís a good idea to refill your air conditioning in time for winter. Yes, you heard us right!

Switching on your air conditioning may seem like a strange thing to suggest during the winter but the dry warm air produced by your car air conditioning system is the most effective way to demist your windscreen ensuring maximum visibility when you need it most.

Also, regular use of your air conditioning in the winter ensures the system remains charged and still works effectively the following summer.

Book in for a free air conditioning check with Kwik Fit here.

Essential gear to keep in your car

Person scrapping ice off a windscreen.

Before you set off on any kind of winter trip, whether it be a long drive to visit the grandparents on the other side of the country, or just popping down the road to the shops, stash a few essential items in your car now so that you are prepared for any eventuality. Hereís a handy checklist:

  • Phone charger
  • Ice scraper & screenwash
  • Warm clothes like gloves & blankets to keep warm if you get stuck waiting at the side of the road
  • Wet weather gear like wellies & an umbrella in case you need to leave your vehicle
  • Snow shovel & rock salt to manage snow around tyres if you get stuck
  • Bottled water and non-perishable snacks
  • Visibility aids like hi-vis jacket and a warning triangle
  • Car jack & locking wheel nut key should you need to change a tyre
  • Torch and batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Jump leads
  • Vehicle handbook
  • Map

For more information on the best things to keep in your car in winter, check out our ultimate winter driving checklist.

Get a free winter check at Kwik Fit

If you want further peace of mind that your car will reliably make it through the winter, book a free winter safety check at your local Kwik Fit centre and our friendly technicians will test the battery, inspect the tyres and check your fluid levels as well as making sure your bulbs and wipers are working properly.




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