Winter is almost here, meaning one thing: colder and wetter weather. During the colder months, driving can be a real challenge. As well as having to deal with heavier rain and darker nights, icy temperatures can make driving even more difficult (and dangerous). To combat this, you can prep your car and get it ready to face the challenge.
1. Make sure your tyres are wet weather-ready
First, make sure your tyres are in a fit state to cope with the drop in temperature and surface water that can (and will) gather on the roads. For optimal grip and stability, the tread depth needs to be above the legal limit (1.6mm) and the pressure should match the numbers listed in your car’s handbook. See our advice tips on checking tread depth here
If you frequently drive during winter, you might want to consider winter tyres. With exceptional grip in low temperatures and improved performance in the wet, they will set you in good stead for when the wet and cold weather hits. Alternatively why not try All Season Tyres, the Bridgestone A005 (link to First stop A005 page) is an award winning all season tyre, perfect for the wet UK conditions.
A note on tyre pressure: a sudden drop in air temperature can cause it to fluctuate, so check this often in winter.
If you have any concerns at all, remember all First Stop locations will be happy to carry out a Free tyre safety check. Click to find your nearest location
2. Check your car battery (and consider changing it)
If your battery is in poor condition, the cold and damp could kill it — especially if you don’t drive often or long distances. This, and the extra drain from the heaters can harm how the battery delivers power. Thus, if your car’s battery is old, replacing it in winter is a wise move.
A car struggling to start screams of a faulty battery. Likewise, if its stop-start technology becomes temperamental. If you detect a fault, you can check the condition of your battery at home if you have the correct equipment. However, your most reliable option is at your local First Stop garage. We can inspect it for free, charge it, and if it’s still no good, replace it!
3. Keep your windscreen clean (inside)
There’s nothing worse than driving at night when your windscreen is full of smears. We’ve all been there, peeping through a section of smear-free glass with our head in an unnatural position — finding it hard to see. It’s not comfortable, and it’s not safe either.
To avoid this troublesome scenario happening again, give your windscreen a good clean every week or two. And remember, use newspaper to remove the streaks left by glass cleaning products.
Having a clear windscreen is important, but all your windows play a part when it comes to maximising your visibility in poor weather. So don’t neglect these, and give them a clean when you clean your windscreen, too.
Which leads nicely onto…
4. And top up your screenwash (outside)
Like a smeared windscreen, one splattered with salt, dirt and grime is also tough to see through. Stubborn dirt is common during winter, and even the best windscreen wipers will enjoy a little screen wash once in a while.
An empty screen wash reservoir is a pet hate of mine, and I’ll hazard a guess I’m not the only one who feels this way. Not only do we want it when we don’t have it, but it’s one of the easiest things to refil.
You’ll find the screen wash reservoir under the bonnet. You can’t miss it, because it has an image of a windscreen and a jet of screen wash. During winter, you can increase the concentration to 25% (or more) screen wash to water. Any other time, 10% screen wash to water is best.
5. Dim your dashboard
Most modern-day cars have more interior lights than a Christmas tree. While they look great, they can be distracting when it’s dark. Dimming your dashboard (or turning off your centre console) can make it easier to focus on the road at night or in dim-lit conditions.
You can find instructions on how to dim your dash in your car’s handbook. If not, chances are the options you’re looking for are in the main settings on your car’s centre console. Some cars will have automatic dim, so check your handbook before you start messing.
6. Check your antifreeze (brrrr!)
When the cold weather hits, the water in your engine’s cooling system is more at risk of freezing. If this happens, it will cause internal pressure which could lead to severe engine damage. So keeping your antifreeze topped up is as vital as any routine check — especially in winter when the temperature drops.
If you’ve not long topped up your antifreeze, you can test its effectiveness with an antifreeze tester. You can pick these up for around £5, and are a great way to check your antifreeze at home. To use it, unscrew the coolant reservoir cap, lower the tube into the coolant and squeeze the tube to suck up the antifreeze. The floating disc will indicate the freezing point.
Can’t get your hands on a tester? Don’t worry, visit your local First Stop garage and we’ll check it for you, along with everything else in this list.
7. Don’t forget your headlights
The days are shorter so the likelihood you’ll be driving in the dark increases. Now is not the time to have faulty headlights, or one aiming higher than the other. So headlight maintenance is a crucial part of your winter prep.
After every journey, have a walk around your car and make sure no dirt or grime is covering your headlights. The same applies to your taillights and reflectors. What’s more, if you’re handy with a toolkit, you might want to carry a spare bulb in your glovebox for emergencies. Some are easier to fit than others, so seek professional help if it looks complicated.
You’re now prepared for winter. Well, almost…
That’s everything you need to know when it comes to prepping your car for the winter months ahead. But carrying an emergency kit with a few essentials is also a wise move. Things you might want to include are; deicer and a scraper, a hazard warning triangle, a spare mobile phone charger, a tow rope, and a hi vis vest.