How to stay safe this winter
It is the oldest piece of advice in the book, but that doesn’t mean it is not worth following. If your oil is sludgy, or the level is low, your car’s engine won’t run efficiently.
Top it up or drain and replace it as necessary, and you’ll reap the benefits all winter long.
2 Check tyres
Whether the weather is cold or wet, you can be certain of one thing in a British winter: the roads will be slippery. Make sure you’ve got a good amount of tread on your tyres to keep you on the straight and narrow (experts recommend a minimum depth of 3mm, which is nearly twice the legal minimum). If you’re likely to face snow and ice on a regular basis, you should consider buying winter tyres or snow chains, just to be on the safe side.
3 Top up washer fluid
Picture the scene: you’re driving along a busy road with salty spray assailing your car’s windscreen from every angle. But your washer fluid has run out, so you’ve resorted to peering through a tiny gap in the smeary screen. Not good, is it? Avoid such a fate: keep your washer jets charged with proper screenwash that won’t freeze when the temperature plummets.
4 Refill the radiator
Whatever the season, it is vital to keep your car’s radiator topped up. In winter, it is especially important to use antifreeze, because it will stop the liquid in the cooling system from turning to ice.
Keep some ready-mixed coolant in your boot, and you can refill the system whenever the need arises.
5 Clear out the interior
Winter is especially unkind to the interior of your car, and the damage can become ingrained without a regular spruce up. Do the sensible thing by clearing out litter, wiping down door sills, cleaning the inside of windows, and polishing the dashboard at least once a week. It will stop a build-up of grime, making your winter journeys pass much more comfortably.
6 Clean the exterior – and keep it that way
If the interior of your car has a hard time in winter, that’s as nothing compared to the battering its exterior will receive. The only way to stop grit and general wintry muck from infiltrating nooks and crannies is regular, deep cleaning. Failure to do so is an invitation to corrosion and rust: bad news for you and your car.
7 Carry a shovel
Another winter-driving cliché, which means it is almost certainly a good idea if you’re heading out in freezing conditions, is to shove a shovel in your boot.
A slight misjudgement in icy or snowy conditions could easily land you in a drift-laden verge. At least if you have a spade with you, there’s a chance of digging your way to safety.
8 Pack an emergency kit
Break down in the chilly breath of winter, and the wait for a tow truck can feel like an eternity. It’s even worse if you’re stranded in traffic on a snow-covered motorway, with no option but to wait out the jam. Keep a warm blanket, a large bottle of water, some emergency rations, a first-aid kit and a decent book in your car. You may well be pleased to have planned ahead.
9 Park your car wisely
If you want to maximise the chances of your car starting each morning in the cold and damp of winter, it pays to park it wisely. Under cover is best, where conditions are dry and warm. Failing that, try to find a sheltered spot, perhaps in the lee of your house or beside a tall hedge. That will protect it from the elements, and reduce the amount of ice-scraping you have to do before hitting the road.
10 Use it or lose it
You may feel tempted by all this talk of winter driving to minimise your exposure and leave the car at home. But an unused car is a recipe for trouble come the winter. Make sure you take it out regularly, including a long run at least every week or so. That way, there is less chance of a flat battery or seized brakes, which are just two of the common issues with cars that spend a long time standing during the cooler months.
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