With winter on its way, it’s important for us to get our cars ready – as well as our homes and our wardrobes – for the chilly months ahead.
No-one wants to hear the sudden, dreaded clunk of an engine shutting off – only to find ourselves stranded at the side of the road in the freezing cold. So, what can we do to help make sure our cars won’t let us down when the temperatures plummet?
Quality tyres are essential for winter driving; after all, they are the only parts of your car that actually make contact with the road. The risk of skidding increases on wet and icy roads, but tyres – together with safe driving – should keep you on track.
Check your tyres every week, making sure that they are inflated to the correct pressure (which you can find in your car’s user manual) and have decent tread. While the legal tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm, the RAC recommends* 3mm which will help you to maintain good grip when driving in adverse weather conditions.
If your wipers squeak or leave a smear on the windscreen they need replacing. They should be changed around once a year to guarantee maximum performance – a new set should ideally be bought in autumn, ready for the winter season. To prolong their life, shift excess debris or snow from the screen yourself before getting in your car and turning them on.
Antifreeze is the liquid that stops the water in your engine’s cooling system from freezing up (which could cause serious issues). If it hasn’t been replaced in the last couple of years, flush the system and top up with a 50/50 mix with water. Pop to a garage if you need a hand, as some may be willing to check and/or change it for free.
Has your car battery ever let you down when you need it most – when you’re just about to set off on your holiday, leave for work, or worse, leave the office for home? Car batteries are put through their paces during the colder months, powering things like your wipers and heating – plus, they have to bear the brunt of sub-zero temperatures.
If you don’t know your way around a car, it’s best to have the battery tested by a mechanic. But there are a number of things you can do personally to preserve battery life, like turning down the heating once your car is warm enough, using a trickle charger (a battery charger that charges at a low amperage) when the car’s not in use, and switching on the wipers, heater and lights only when you’ve started the engine.
Lights and visibility
The simplest check of them all: are all of your car’s lights working? If a bulb is broken, replace it as soon as you can. Wash your car regularly, paying particularly attention to the windscreen, windows and lights to ensure maximum visibility when you’re driving in the dark or in bad weather.
If you’ve ever found yourself stranded at the side of the road before, you’ll know it’s not a pleasant experience – particularly when it happens at night and during bad weather. So, it’s always best to prepare for the unexpected by putting together an emergency kit and storing it in your boot. That kit could include:
• Torch and extra batteries
• Warm clothes
• Water and snacks
• Hazard warning triangle
• Jumper cables
• Ice scraper and de-icer (these should be kept in your glove box, anyway)
With your car in tip-top condition, have you thought about insurance? It’s important to have quality cover in place to protect you when you’re out on the road.
Zurich car insurance features a whole range of benefits as standard, from a courtesy car and a three-year repairer’s guarantee, to no loss of no-claims discount if you’re hit by an uninsured driver.
For added protection, you can add RAC breakdown cover to your policy, which is offered in four levels. For every option, a RAC mechanic will fix your car at the roadside if you are more than a quarter of a mile away from your home, or alternatively, take you to a nearby garage.
Carrying out these checks will help you to get winter ready, but if in any doubt, you should always visit your local garage.
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