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How to get your car ready for winter

Kwik Fit | Thursday 15th December 2016 2:05pm

Volkswagen grill on an icy day

Winter is coming. It doesn’t officially start until 21st December but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s already here. Cold mornings and frosty windscreens earlier this month were just the beginning - winter can be a harsh season for your car but planning ahead can mean the difference between getting to your rellies for Christmas or being stuck by the roadside waiting for the breakdown truck. But even if the worst should happen, by packing some essential items now, you can make the wait for rescue a little more bearable. You’ll thank yourself later.

Simple checks you can do yourself

Getting your vehicle ready to take on winter doesn’t need to be difficult. Here are some basic car maintenance tips that can help your car to survive the season.

  • 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.
  • 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. Replace blown bulbs as soon as possible. Not only is this an instant MOT fail but other road uses may not be able to see you clearly in wintry conditions.
  • Check your tyres every few weeks. Adequate tread is critical to help tyres grip cold icy roads. 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.
  • Check your coolant level and top up if necessary. Coolant is stored in a bottle near the engine and is usually a bright pink or blue colour – 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.
  • 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 you’ve been having trouble starting the car lately, get your battery checked before winter really hits.

Essential gear to keep in your car

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. Here’s a handy checklist.

  • 12v power adapter – turns your cigarette lighter into a handy plug socket for charging your phone
  • USB phone charger – keep one in the car so you can call for help even if your phone dies
  • Mobile phone – keep it with you but never use while driving
  • Ice scraper – because using a credit card will take you forever
  • Gloves – scraping the aforementioned ice is going to hurt without them
  • Blankets – keep everyone warm if stuck waiting on the side of the road
  • Wellies – your loafers aren’t going to fare so well if you have to get out in the snow
  • Snow shovel – dig yourself out when the weather turns really nasty
  • Rock Salt – keep a bag in the boot to melt ice on slippery hills
  • Torch – If you need to leave the vehicle, light the way
  • Spare Batteries – because that torch will die at the worse moment
  • Hi-visibility jacket – Other drivers will be able to see you clearly if you leave the vehicle
  • Bottles of water – stay hydrated, it could be a long wait in severe conditions
  • Snacks – as above, keep your energy up by keeping crisps and snacks in the glovebox
  • Warning triangle – if you breakdown and are causing an obstruction
  • First Aid Kit – In case you get into any scrapes
  • Bottle of screenwash – should you need to refill
  • Car jack – in case you get a flat and need to change the tyre
  • Locking wheel nut key – neither you nor the recovery service are going to be able to get wheel off without it
  • Jump leads – if the battery dies, no need to wait for a good Samaritan to come along with theirs
  • Vehicle handbook – what does that warning light mean? Look it up rather than worrying about it
  • Map – for when the sat nav tells you the dreaded words “GPS signal lost”
  • Umbrella – because it’s the UK.

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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