Car Checks and Maintenance

Car checks and maintenance for winter

It’s the time of year when car owners start thinking about where they left the de-icer when they cleaned out the car last April, but in fact there are far more steps that the responsible owner should take before winter sets in to make sure that their journeys are safe and the car is ready for everything the weather can throw at it. No matter what the weather forecast says, it is always best to expect the worst – most of the snow and storm conditions of the past few winters have come as a surprise as regards severity and so be prepared should be the driver’s motto.
Check the battery now – not when the car won't start!
In good weather a car battery usually doesn’t have too much stress put on it but when it gets cold and dark it is often asked to run a heater and wipers and lights even before a journey begins. This can run the battery down and if the subsequent journey isn’t a long one the battery can end up never replenishing itself and eventually – usually on a dark and stormy night when your child is waiting to be picked up from soccer practice or a flute lesson, you know the score – it will just whirr at you and there you are. So, check it now and if it is not holding a charge properly, replace it. It is not cheap, but it is better than a frozen child.
Check the coolant
If you don’t have the right percentage of anti-freeze in the radiator, it will freeze. That’s it, there is no middle ground. A frozen engine causes all kinds of major damage which can cost a fortune to repair, if a repair is even cost effective, so have the coolant checked by the garage if you don’t feel able to do it yourself.
Check the wiper blades
Frozen windscreens are much more of a challenge for your wiper blades than even the heaviest rain, so check them before the start of winter. They also need care when you are defrosting the windscreen. Resist the temptation to run the wipers before the screen is completely defrosted, or the frozen blade can stick to the surface and get ripped away if the frost layer is still too thick. Look at it this way – waiting an extra ten seconds or so for the screen to clear is so much quicker than going to the hassle of replacing the whole blade as well as a great deal cheaper. While you’re there, make sure you have a suitable winter screenwash in the bottle too – a squirt of screenwash on a cold windscreen can completely obscure your vision.
Tyres need checking too.
Depending on whereabouts in the country you live and the likelihood of deep snow, you might want to invest in winter tyres or snow socks. In any event, make sure that your tyres have adequate tread right across their width and that there are no bulges or weak-looking places on the walls. Snow that is frozen in ruts can be very sharp and of course ice needs as much grip from the tyres as possible and so having the right tyre is essential.
And finally – look after yourself
It may seem very obvious but in winter only go out in the car if you absolutely have to. For most people this means that going to work or on the school run is essential; going for a takeaway isn’t. But for total safety, every journey should be assessed on its merits and even apparently ‘essential’ journeys should be shelved in extreme conditions. If you must go out, take blankets, warning triangle, warm clothing, drinks and snacks and – most importantly – a mobile phone with credit and fully charged battery.

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