How to prepare your car for winter: from tyres to wipers, what you need to check to drive in bad weather

How to prepare your car for winter: from tyres to wipers, what you need to check to drive in bad weather
How to prepare your car for winter: from tyres to wipers, what you need to check to drive in bad weather

As if you needed it, a quick glance outside confirms that winter is well and truly on its way.

As well as the generally misery of shorter days, heavy rain, gusting wind and freezing temperatures, the declining conditions present extra hazards and problems for motorists.

Everything from deteriorating road conditions to fading light can have an effect on your car and your safety so it’s important to prepare your car for whatever winter has in store.

Top help you stay safe on the roads this winter here are some simple steps to get your car ready for whatever the weather throws at you.

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Visibility is vital

Being able to see properly is, obviously, central to staying safe on the roads but winter throws up all sorts of conditions that can impair your vision.

Rain, snow and grit thrown up by other cars can quickly coat windscreens so it’s important to make sure your washer system is in up to the task. Check your wiper blades are in good condition and that there are no cracks or tears in the rubber. A new set of blades is only around £20 so there’s no reason for having ineffective wipers fitted.

With the prospect of bad weather it’s important you can see and be seen on the road. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Also keep your washer reservoir topped up with the correct concentration of cleaning fluid. Most fluids will indicate their temperature range and how to dilute them for different operating temperatures so pick one that works to well below freezing and mix it accordingly. Don’t ever top up with just water. If it freezes it will render your washers useless and could damage the system.

With shorter days it’s also important that you can see and be seen in the dark so check your lights. Take time to check all the bulbs are working, including fog lights and indicators. Not only does this ensure you can see where you’re going, it also means other people can see you, especially important when weather can severely affect visibility.

Tyres

Tyres are your car’s only point of contact with the road so it’s always important that they are in good condition. However, road conditions deteriorate in winter and grip is at even more of a premium so it’s even more important that your tyres are up to the job.

Check depths using a proper tyre gauge. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm but most motoring bodies and tyre makers recommend at least 3mm in winter.

Winter tyre
Winter tyres have special tread patterns and compounds to better deal with standing water and cold roads (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Also check your tyre pressures. Grip is affected by over/under-inflated tyres so make sure yours are set to the correct pressure.

Consider getting a set of winter tyres. The tread pattern is cut to better deal with heavy rain, puddles and snow, and the rubber is designed to work better at temperatures below 7 degrees Celcius. Both mean winter tyres grip the road better in winter and offer improved braking and steering on cold, wet roads.

Under-bonnet checks

You should be checking your car’s vital fluids regularly but in the lead-up to winter it’s worth giving them another going over.

Coolant/antifreeze is especially important. A frozen engine isn’t going to get you very far so check that your car is topped up to the correct level and with the correct fluid. You can buy cheap tools to check the concentration of your antifreeze but if you’re in any doubt, consult a professional.

It’s also a good idea to check your battery’s condition. Heating and lighting systems working overtime put additional strain on a car’s battery so a dodgy one could leave you stranded when you least expect it.

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A few under-bonnet checks now could save you from being stranded later (Photo: Shutterstock)

Look after yourself

Once your car is prepared for the bad weather you should make sure you’re equipped to deal with the conditions should you be delayed or stuck. Keep a basic winter kit in the car with sturdy footwear, spare gloves, hat, jumper and blanket. Also include a torch, phone charger, snacks, a folding snow shovel and a reflective jacket.

It’s also smart to keep your car well fuelled in case you’re stuck in slow moving traffic and ensure your mobile phone is fully charged so you can call for help should the worst happen and you get stuck.

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