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How to prepare your car for winter

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With winter on its way, it’s time to ‘winter-proof’ your car. Our 10 top tips will ensure your car is prepared and will help avoid expensive repairs.

Broken down car on a public road

Top up antifreeze

Without adequate antifreeze, sub-zero temperatures can do untold damage to your engine. Your manual will tell you the best type of antifreeze for your car and the amount you should use. If you can’t find it, you can use Halfords online tool to find the right antifreeze.

Never replenish fluids (oil, coolant, wiper fluid) straight after you’ve driven the car – wait until it’s cooled down.

Antifreeze

Make sure your windscreen and lights are clear

In the winter, spray can obscure the view through your windscreen. Your wipers and washer fluid are the only defence against this. So make sure the windscreen wipers are working smoothly and don’t leave streaks, and that the washer fluid is topped up.

Keep a supply of washer fluid in the boot. Don’t replenish the fluid compartment with water and washing-up liquid – you’ll end up with a fogged-up windscreen. Other motorists need to be able to see you too, so check your driving lights are working properly and wipe them clean once a week.

Frozen windscreen

Keep your battery charged

Your car battery works harder during the winter months – the heating is on full-blast, de-misters are working overtime and headlights are on for longer. As if that’s not enough, cold temperatures also reduce the battery’s capacity. It’s important you know the health of your battery.

The last thing you want is to be met by silence the next time you try to turn on the engine. Just driving your car regularly will help keep it in good shape. And if it’s failed to start already this year, it will need changing.

Man checking engine in winter

Check your tyres

Balding tyres are a safety hazard at any time, but in winter the risks of an accident are even greater. So make sure that all four tyres have the safe amount of tread.

Legally, the depth of the tread must be at least 1.6mm. But, for peace of mind, 2-3mm is recommended. You may even want to invest in a set of winter tyres, particularly if you live in a rural or hilly area.

Car driving on snow

Test your brakes

The roads are more slippery in winter, so it’s vital that your brakes are up to the task. Some newer cars are fitted with sensors that will tell you when the brakes need replacing.

Otherwise, you can ask your local garage to test your brake pads, discs and pipes.

Car brakes

Protect your car body

Very little ages your car quicker than exposure to the salt sprinkled on the roads in the winter. Prevention is better than cure when it comes to keeping corrosion at bay, so wash and wax your car before the harsh weather sets in.

If you have to park outside during the winter months, consider buying a good quality car cover.

Ice on a car

Replace belts and hoses

Cold temperatures can weaken the rubber belts and hoses under your car’s bonnet, and you don’t want something to snap out on the road on a cold winter’s night.

In most cases they get checked at service time every 30,000 miles or so. But it’s a good idea to let a mechanic give them a once-over before the first cold snap arrives, as there may be potential weak points.

Man servicing a car

Don’t run the tank empty

In sub-zero temperatures, your fuel-line may freeze up meaning that your car won’t start. You can prevent this simply by making sure your fuel tank is always more than half full.

Man on a petrol station

Keep an emergency kit

Keep an emergency kit in your car in case you break down and find yourself stuck out in the cold. Your kit should include boots, blankets, torch and batteries, first aid kit, jump leads, shovel, road atlas, de-icer and sunglasses (winter sun can be dazzling).

Emergency help kit

Get a timely service

You can address many of these winter-proofing tips in one go by visiting your local garage. Many now offer special winter checks, including ensuring tyres are in good condition, mechanical parts are lubricated and essential lubricants topped up.

Mechanic servicing a car

Remember that keeping up-to-date with the recommended service schedule will help keep your car in good condition all year round – and protect any warranty!

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