Even for the most capable and confident drivers, driving can prove rather tricky when the temperature drops, the nights get darker, and the weather worsens. As a driver, you need to manage all of the usual dangers of the roads as well as driving in potential snow, slippery ice, wind, heavy rain and freezing temperatures.
According to Motor Easy, some 38% of all road accidents in Glasgow during the winter months are because of snow, ice or excessive rain. The statistic is just as high in Scotland’s capital with 27.6% of all road accidents in Edinburgh between March and December caused by the winter weather.
It’s vital to regularly service your car whatever the weather but the winter chill will put extra strain on your vehicle so it’s particularly important to make sure it’s in good condition before the temperature dips – and that you’ve got everything you need to make your winter journeys as comfortable and safe as possible. Read on for our top 10 tips to make sure your car is winter-ready to keep you, and other drivers, safe on the roads this winter.
Get your car serviced
If possible, you should make sure your car gets a good service before winter sets in. It’s a good idea to schedule it before the temperatures drop and the garages fill up. Winter is tough on cars, but a lot of potential problems and breakdowns can be avoided with regular maintenance.
Prepare an emergency winter kit
Whilst some of these essentials are necessary year round, if you’re driving during the unpredictable winter weather, it’s crucially important to keep certain items tucked away in the boot of your car. In these situations, it’s better to be over prepared in case you are involved in a road traffic accident, in the snow or ice. Here’s our top picks for a Winter Car Survival Kit:
- Ice scraper and de-icer
- Torch and spare batteries
- Fully charged phone and an in-car phone charger
- First aid kit
- Warm clothes, gloves, waterproofs and high-vis jackets
- Sturdy footwear
- Sunglasses for the winter sun
- Hot drinks, water and snack
- Jump start cables
Check your tyres
As your tyres are the only part of your car that are actually in direct contact with the road, it’s vitally important you make sure that they’re in good condition. You should check that all your car’s tyres have plenty of tread depth (how deep the grooves go in the tyres’ surface). The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm deep across the central ¾ of the tyre’s width, around its entire circumference. The pressure in your tyres is important too, so you should check this on a regular basis. Your owner’s handbook will tell you what amount of pressure is right for your car.
Check your wiper blades
Make sure your wiper blades are in good condition so they can clear heavy rainfall, snow, frost and dirt from your windscreen. Most blades are only good for around 6-12 months. They don’t cost much to replace and the safety benefits they provide are priceless. It’s also important to regularly top up your windscreen’s washer fluid so that you don’t run out whilst you’re on the road. You should always use good-quality washer fluid instead of just water, which can freeze if it’s very cold.
Check your lights
Make sure all your car lights are in good working order so you can see, and be seen, on dark evenings and rainy days. In wintry conditions there’s often a lot of dirty spray from the road surface that can coat and dim your car lights. Regularly give them a good wipe to help visibility and take a walk around the car before you head out to make sure they’re all working.
Wash your car
Whilst there’s nothing better than a freshly washed car, there’s a practical reason also for keeping your car clean – dirt is bad for it. The salt that’s used on roads during the winter is quite corrosive and can damage your car’s bodywork, but even regular road grime and mud can speed up the development of rust. This is especially true in rural areas, so it’s worth braving the cold and getting busy with a bucket and sponge or visiting your local car wash.
Check fluid levels
Don’t wait for your warning lights to come in, instead take a look at the car’s fluid levels, including oil, brake fluid and anything else suggested by the owner’s manual – and make sure they’re well within the set limits. Topping up the coolant with antifreeze will help prevent any pipes from cracking or corroding in cold weather too.
Check your battery
Cold weather can take its toll on your car’s battery as we make more use of our car lights and heaters. If your car is reluctant to start on cold mornings it could be a sign your battery needs replacing. If you’re waiting with the engine off, try to avoid using the heater and radio, as these will drain the battery and could leave you without enough power to re-start the engine. If you’ve had your battery for more than 5 years, it could be worth investing in a new one as we head into the winter period.
Check your brakes
Being able to stop efficiently is always important and never more so than in winter when road conditions are more likely to be slippery from rain or ice. Therefore, you need to make sure your brakes are in good condition. You can do this yourself through a visual inspection, by having a look at the brake discs behind the wheels to see if there’s any scoring or signs of corrosion. If you do need a replacement brake disc or pad, or are simply not sure, please contact your local garage for a winter check.
Make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel before you set off
It’s a general rule of thumb to keep at least a quarter of a tank of fuel in your car so you have enough to get you to the next petrol station, if you do start to run low. This is a wise practice at any time of year, but especially so in winter when there’s a possibility of getting stuck because of bad weather.
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