Running and maintaining a car is a costly business these days and as the weather gets colder and the nights become darker, it makes sense to consider winter car maintenance and ways in which we can protect our cars from the elements.
Of course, the number one safety tip is to make sure that your vehicle has a valid MOT to ensure both the safety of you and your passengers and other road users. This is, of course, a legal requirement.
The Government says that nearly 50% of all faults found on MOTs could be avoided by carrying out regular, simple maintenance, like replacing bulbs, wipers and tyres.
The following tips will not only help you to weatherproof your car and increase its security during the winter months but also keep it in tip-top condition so that it passes its next MOT with flying colours.
You’ll also find lots of auto centres offer a winter maintenance package which is a cost-effective way of keeping your car in tip-top condition during the colder months.
If you’re anything like us, your garage is extra storage space, filled to the rafters with things which should have gone to the charity shop or a skip a long time ago.
Insurers, of course, would prefer us to keep our cars nicely locked up in the garage but many houses and apartments are being built without garages, forcing lots of us to keep our cars on a driveway or parked on the road – hopefully near to our home!
One idea is to install a carport or see if you can rent a parking space from someone else nearby. If you have an unused driveway yourself, renting yours could earn you a useful extra bit of income if you don’t mind a stranger parked outside your home every day!
Make sure you regularly wash your vehicle to get rid of any salt or grit. You’ll need to clean the underside of your car too.
Your lights will benefit from being kept sparkling too to ensure you can see and are seen on the road.
Protect your car against the elements by keeping it waxed and polished. Bad weather can make your car more susceptible to rust and oxidation. Invest in car waxes specially designed to protect your vehicle’s surface from road salt and snow, for example, Turtle Wax Ice Liquid or Paste Wax. Be sure to concentrate on the lower parts of your car – behind the wheels, quarter panels, and front grille where ice, snow and salt have the greatest effect.
Make sure you check that your car’s fluid levels are accurate. Don’t forget to replace or top up summer windshield wiper fluid with one suitable for winter that won’t freeze when the temperature drops.
Check your antifreeze and oil levels to prevent internal damage to your car.
It’s also a good idea to keep your gas tank at least half full to help just in case you get stranded somewhere miles from a petrol station!
If you’re going to doing a lot of driving, for example, you’re driving home for Christmas, you might want to invest in a set of winter tyres. These tyres, more commonly called cold weather tyres, are made from a softer material which means that they are soft enough to grip in temperatures below 7 degrees centigrade. They also have different tread patterns which allow the tyre to bite into the snow better.
A car fitted with winter tyres should stop more quickly and be less prone to skidding in any weather conditions if the temperature drops below the 7 degrees mark.
Otherwise, check your current tyres for wear and tear and ensure that they are inflated to the correct pressure. You’ll need to check this more frequently in winter as the cold will make your tyre pressure drop. You can also use a high-quality tyre dressing to provide a barrier to the elements.
If you live in a rural area you may want to keep a set of tyre chains in your boot.
The time to replace these and check for wear and tear is before the bad weather sets in. Make sure you have a good stock of de-icer and an ice scraper to hand – although I’m sure we’ve all used a credit card for this purpose when pushed.
You can guarantee that you’ll discover your battery is flat on the morning which it’s vital you get somewhere on time! Check your battery for signs of corrosion and invest in a battery charger.
It makes sense to go fully prepared. As well as plenty of de-icer and your ice scraper, make sure you’ve got warning signs, snacks, water, blankets, torches and a shovel to dig yourself out! Don’t forget to check out my suggestions if your little ones suffer from car sickness too!
It’s a good idea to check your breakdown cover is in place and that your policy will get you to where you want to go. For example, some policies will only cover a home start – not much use if you’re stranded on the M25.
A bit of investment in some extra care and some winter car maintenance may help keep you safe and your car on the road for longer.
And don’t forget that combining your MOT with a service will get all of these checks done for you before the cold weather hits. Ask your dealer or nearest auto centre about a winter maintenance package which may save you loads in the long run.