Whichever way you look at it, winter really gives our cars a beating.
The horrible weather, the low temperatures, the constant freezing, expanding and defrosting of ice on the car and the harsher-than-usual driving conditions. Whilst some will succumb to the difficulties that winter brings to driving, some are plenty prepared and will reach the blossoming flowers of spring virtually unscathed. Winter car troubles, oh how we loathe you.
Without further delay, we bring you ten ways to look after your car this winter…
#1 Take it for a winter car service.
Having a winter car service is popular for many a good reason. Garages and service centres will charge your battery, top up your coolant and screenwash, check your tyre tread depths and assess your lights, as well as many other things. For many cars, this will make all of the difference.
#2 Winter tyres
After your winter car service, you may be recommended some winter car tyres, which are far more effective on cold, wet or icy surfaces then their summer counterparts. Braking distances are considerably reduced with winter car tyres. It should be possible for you to take your summer tyres with you, if they have safe tread depths. This means once spring comes around you can change your winter tyres back to summer tyres.
#3 Tyre pressure
Check your tyre pressure and pump them up if needed. There are some awful ideas out there, like those suggesting that having low tyre pressure will give you better grip on the road in winter. This is hogwash. Tyres should be at their optimum pressure for maximum effectiveness.
#4 Front and rear lights
Give your lights a good clean and replace the bulbs if needed. If you work standard hours, don’t be surprised to be leaving for work in the dark and getting home in the dark, you’ll be getting a lot more use out of your lights now than in summer. It’s not just about being able to see clearly either, you must be clearly visible to other drivers who may be driving in rain, sleet, hail or snow.
Your windshield is your friend, treat it well. We put together a great article about how to look after your windshield, which you can read here. The point to be made is that as well as de-icing it properly, it must be kept very clean due to visibility issues and most notably because of the low sun in winter, which often causes glare and in some circumstances, accidents.
#6 Winter emergency kit
Remember that old phrase, ‘preparation is the key to success’? With a winter emergency kit, if the worst does happen and you end up stranded somewhere in the cold, you’re going to wish you had one of these…
You’ll want something to keep your warm, like a thermal sleeping bag or a big woolly blanket. If your car is stuck in mud or snow, you will want a shovel and bit of carpet, first to dig your tyres out, then to gain some traction. For visibility you will want a reflective jacket and torch, or head torch. You might want snow chains if you can foresee some drastic weather conditions, and a tow rope and jump leads if your car is liable to go flat. Don’t forget food and drink (no alcohol!).
#7 More time and space
This is Stephen Hawking’s favourite tip for winter car management, time and space. Sorry. It’s valid though, that you aren’t the only one who has to suffer the elements this winter; it may take you longer to get around than in summer, so give yourself more time to get anywhere. A winter car service, winter tyres and an emergency kit won’t protect you from bumping into the back of someone if you don’t give them enough space on the road. Some would advise giving three times as much space when roads are icy or snowy.
#8 Breakdown cover
It’s reported that one in ten people in the UK don’t have breakdown cover. Their courage is not remarkable, it’s foolish. You never know when the worst might happen and your car will give up on you whilst you are out and about, so having breakdown cover is essential. If you were to break down in the middle of nowhere, you can only imagine the incredible feeling of relief when a recovery vehicle turns up!
#9 Salty undercarriage
Many people forget how damaging all the salt and grit on the road can be to our vehicles. Not only as it bounces up and down off the road, banging and scratching at parts, but also getting into little cracks and crevices. For rust to appear, it needs three things, water, air and steel. What the salt and grit from the road does is increase the flow of electrons to the chemical reaction and speeds up the process. If you have time, wash your car undercarriage with a hose, this will help you in the long run.
#10 Phone & traffic updates on
We can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your phone on and sign up to traffic updates. You can keep traffic updates on with the radio, but with the amazing things phones can do now, you can get an up to date report on there too. Signal may be affected in very rural areas. Next, take your phone and like In Town Automotive on Facebook and @InTownAuto on Twitter. This won’t directly help you if you get stuck, but we do have a great winter car service!
See our service options here…