It won’t have escaped anyone’s attention that the weather has turned colder. Wintry conditions are harder on us all and that goes equally for the family car. The best way to deal with adverse conditions is to prepare for them and that means making sure the car is ready to go.
All cars come with windscreen washers these days and it’s an item that is often overlooked, day to day. In Winter, a clear view of the road is essential and it’s important to make sure the windscreen washer bottle is always topped up. Using dilute washing-up liquid may seem like an easy option, but it does not do a proper job of clearing road grease and dirt; it smears, and that’s worse.
Instead, buy a decent brand of neat screenwash and make a 25% solution with water. That’s enough to stop the water in the system from freezing and will be strong enough to clean the screen. The reservoir is always handily placed under the bonnet so make a top-up part of the weekly car check.
It doesn’t end there though; check to make sure the nozzles are clean and clear and that the spray of water is directed at the screen. How many times have you seen the car in front spraying water over the roof? Exactly. If you don’t know how to adjust these, your local car servicing garage will be pleased to help.
With most modern motors, the engine is water cooled. The days of regularly topping up radiators may have gone as systems are now sealed and contain an anti-freeze mix, but that doesn’t mean they don’t go wrong. Keep a weekly eye on the cooling system expansion tank. It’s always clearly visible under the bonnet and should be checked when the engine is cold. The level should be as marked on the bottle. If it isn’t get the system checked. If there is a leak, then antifreeze solution will be lost, so that will need to be refilled. If in doubt, book the car in for a service.
This is a common issue because we still convince ourselves that a car battery will last forever; it won’t. It’s all fine and dandy in the Summer but Winter’s icy fingers will soon seek out a weak battery. Cold engines need more power to get them going so if the car is sluggish to start or simply won’t start at all, it is likely that the battery is flat and dying. These days they are sealed units so the only sensible solution is replacement with a new one. This is a straightforward job to do at home, but electricity is involved so if in doubt ask a professional garage to make the change. It might seem a bit old school, but a set of battery jump leads in the boot might be a thought.
Winters in the UK are rarely that bad (famous last words etcetera) but tyre safety is still crucial. Check those tyres every week and ensure there is plenty of tread across the whole width, that there are no bulges or signs of damage, and that the pressures are set correctly. It doesn’t take long and it is a good idea to buy a good quality combined tyre gauge and pump to make life easier.
In colder countries, Winter tyres have been used for years and the idea is gaining popularity here too. These specialised tyres are made of a softer compound and are designed to provide better grip in cold conditions. They work, it’s not a ruse to sell extra sets, so if budget permits then consider buying a set to replace the regular tyres we normally use. Next Spring swap them back again. Get advice from the professionals about swapping and storing.
As the driver, your well-being is vital for safe motoring. Dress warmly and make sure the air-con is de-misting quickly and effectively. Equip the interior with a good ice scraper, some de-icer, a blanket and a bottle of water. On a longer trip, take a flask with a hot drink and make sure there’s plenty of fuel in the tank.
Most of us carry a phone these days so keep a car charger to hand and also a pair of sunglasses. That’s right, because when the sun does make an appearance in Winter, it is low in the sky and can dazzle. This time of year we start to look forward to Christmas so make sure it’s a safe one.