The last of the summer sunshine has almost definitely gone for the year and the first frosts of colder months are starting to creep in.
That's why it's the right time to start thinking about getting your car ready for winter. Frosts, colder temperatures and darker, longer nights- your daily driver will be taking a beating over the next few months.
Let's have a run down of the few simple things you can do to keep your vehicle running on top form over winter.
Choosing the Best Tyres for Winter
First off, tyre pressures drop dramatically when the air gets colder so check them regularly (which you should probably be doing anyway, but more often in winter). An under-inflated tyre generates a lot more heat than a properly inflated one, which could lead to a (eek!) blow-out.
But what kind of tyres are best for your car in winter anyway?
The Pros and Cons of Snow Tyres for UK Winters
So what's the Best Option?
In general, decent quality tyres made by a well known manufacturer are better than cheap quality ones anyway, regardless of whether or not they're the right ones for the season- so a bad quality snow tyre will not outperform a good quality all season tyre. But trying to convince people to spend a little bit more money on a good quality tyre which will:
is hard enough, without telling people they need to buy expensive, good quality tyres that are the right kind for the season and, oh yeah, unless you own a tyre fitting machine you'll need to pay someone to change them twice a year too.
Ok, rant about tyres over, here's the practical advice you were probably looking for:
If you're fitting ones from last year, make sure your snow tyres actually have tread. Or whatever tyres you use have tread. Anything less than 2mm is borderline and when it's cold should really be replaced.
Also make sure your spare tyre is blown up and in useable condition. If you have one, check all parts of the inflation pack are there (especially if it's a second hand car). If you're unsure, consult your manual (if you have it) to ensure all parts of the spare wheel set are there.
If your car didn't come with one, consider investing in an inflation kit anyway as they're good to have for ease if you get a puncture when it's howling a blizzard outside and you don't fancy fitting the spare- although they're useless if you get a blowout.
Under the Car Bonnet Winter Checks
Once you're happy with your tyre situation you'll want to pop the bonnet and check some levels.
1) Check Your Antifreeze
Over time antifreeze gets weaker and loses its anti-corrosive and anti-freezing properties (which are a bit essential in winter).
Using an antifreeze tester (not by tasting it!) test the strength of your coolant (there are lots of places you can buy an antifreeze tester from for less than £5, so you really have no excuse).
Replace if necessary.
2) Check Your Screen Wash
Slushy and gritted roads can soon make your windscreen dirty so keep your screen wash topped up and make sure you have a good concentration of screen wash too.
It's not really under the bonnet, but you should also check your wiper blades at this point for splits/smearing or generally not working properly as you'll be using them constantly when there's salt on the road.
3) Check Your Car Lights
Do a full lights check, including the fog lights as fewer daylight hours means you'll be using them more often. Replace any bulbs as necessary.
You could also consider upgrading your headlights to LEDs or other road legal, brighter bulbs.
4) Test Your Car Battery Voltage
Cold weather can be a death sentence for old batteries. If you have a battery tester check your voltage and replace the battery if necessary.
TIP: When you go to turn on your ignition on icy mornings or evenings, if you have a diesel car allow the glow plugs time to work first. Don't crank straight away, turn the key halfway and allow the light to go out before you crank it to avoid draining the battery.
And avoid leaving your lights on!
Rustproofing Your Car For Winter
You should waxoyl and underseal a car as soon as you buy it if you don't want the rust to set in (or better yet buy one that's been done from new)- but if you didn't now is the time to get the job done before rain, ice and grit on the roads start attacking your vehicle's bodywork.
Even if you have rustproofed the protection will have washed off over time so it's a good idea to give your vehicle another light coating.
When you come to wash your car pay particular attention to the inner lips of the wheel arches where mud from the roads will sit, leading to corrosion.
Bad weather mixed with bad drivers can make the roads more dangerous over winter. If the worst happens and you break down or are involved in an accident you need to be prepared.
Things you should probably keep in your car for a winter emergency:
Slightly less normal things to carry in your car for an emergency, but have been suggested to me for this article:
Pack whatever you feel comfortable with.
And Finally, Consider a Dash Cam for Your Car
My older brother is obsessed with dash cams and has two in his car (for front and back windows, respectively) so he kindly sent me one as a gift.
At first I was sceptical, but the image quality is actually really good and if you hardwire it to your ignition and run the wire through your headlining, as my brother recommend to me (very easy to do) you don't notice it or need to remember to turn it on.
I don't really like having to live in a world where we can't trust other people but I know that accidents happen on icy roads so be careful and be prepared in case anyone tries to blame you.
Still sceptical? This video will almost definitely convert you.
Got any good tips for preparing your car for winter? We'd love to hear them.
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