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How to prepare your car for winter

The coldest time of the year is slowly creeping up on us, so we've put together a guide on how you can be sure your car is ready to tackle the change from mild to cold weather.

Despite a relatively mild October so far, winter is coming and it's important that you start preparing for the colder weather to start coming in the next few weeks.

Going from the temperatures we're experiencing now of around 16 degrees to sub-0 degrees will mean a quick shift from keeping the windows open in the evening to putting the heating on full blast to keep your home nice and warm.

It's a big shock to our systems and it's no different for cars that are massively affected by the weather, especially if you aren't able to leave them in a garage overnight.

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Before it starts getting too cold, why not take action now while it's still bearable to be outside for a period of time and do the very basic maintenance checks to ensure everything is in good order.

We've listed some of the best practices you can undertake now to keep your car in good working order and save you from having to fork out for any unexpected work over the next few months.

Car service

Don't wait to get a car service if it's due in the next couple of months. The sooner you get it, the better prepared you know you'll be for winter and it could save unnecessary anxiety if something were to happen.

Keeping your car well maintained with regular checks gives you a much better chance of avoiding the hassle of an issue arising as well as keeping those costs down ahead of Christmas.

You may be able to find some garages offering free or discounted winter car checks where they will assess your tyres, lights, wipers, oil levels, battery and coolant.

Battery check

If you've had your car for a few years now then it's certainly worth paying some attention to the battery because you could get caught short in freezing conditions.

A battery typically lasts on average around five years and the plummeting temperatures in winter could reduce that further if it's not carefully maintained. 

As you'll likely be relying on the battery even more when using the heater, blower and lights in winter, it can be dangerous for you not to get it checked over beforehand, just in case.

Antifreeze 

You'll need antifreeze as the temperature starts dropping further but it's essential that you get the mix of antifreeze and engine coolant correct.

There should be 50% of each diluted over time and this will make sure that your systems don't get too cold and frozen when left out in the harsher conditions.

Tyre check

When the roads get icier and wetter from the rain, sleet and snow, your tyres are going to be the ones that determine whether you have a successful journey.

The tyres are critical for steering and braking and therefore you must ensure they are in good condition at any time of the year, let alone winter.

You will want to aim for a minimum of 3mm depth as opposed to the legal minimum of 1.6mm as this will provide better grip when faced with more challenging terrain.

Lights

As the shorter days draw in and the mornings and late afternoons get darker, your visibility is going to be critical in keeping yourself and other road users safe.

While it is still relatively light in the evenings, use this time to check all of your lights, indicators and reflectors are clean, have no cracks or blown bulbs.

Also test your fog lights, full beam headlights and indicators before driving in the dark.

Windscreen and wipers

Cleaning your windscreen inside and out will mean that even in the poorest of weather conditions, your visibility isn't being impaired by dust, cobwebs or other dirt that could have accumulated over time.

Chips and cracks can develop in the coldest of weather conditions so triple check all of your windows and get them repaired as soon as possible or else risk them developing into a more significant problem.

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Longer journeys

If you are planning on going on a long journey for a trip or to visit friends and family, you should plan ahead so you are aware of what to expect along the way.

From managing your route using your navigation system, to what you can expect the weather to be like, try to get an understanding of these before you depart.

Give yourself extra time to travel by leaving earlier in case you encounter traffic or adverse weather that you'd not previously anticipated. 

If there is snow or ice on your car, be sure to get rid of it before you leave as it could be a potential hazard for you and others around.

Winter car kit

Try to put together a winter car kit that you keep in your car at all times in case you ever find yourself in an emergency situation and are stranded for a period of time.

Some of the most important things to include are:

  • A blanket
  • A phone charger or battery pack
  • De-icer or scraper
  • A hi-vis jacket
  • Food and drink
  • A shovel

Breakdown cover

You should be aware of your breakdown cover at all times, but it's particularly important as we approach the colder months to ensure that you aren't stranded if you were to break down.

Of course, if you didn't have the cover you could still be rescued, but the fees would be much more than if you had the correct insurance already.

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General maintenance

With the current fuel situation in this country, it's important to try to fill up if you notice you have less than a quarter tank, just to be on the safe side in case you don't come across a petrol station for a long period of time.

If you get any warnings on your dashboard then don't ignore them. Try to find out the problem as soon as you can and get expert help where applicable.

Of course, there are plenty of other safety and general well-being bits that need to be taken care of, and if you aren't sure how to do them yourself, then it's worth taking your car to the garage to get a professional to look at it for you.

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