When the summer months are throwing rays of sunshine across the lands and as long as your air conditioning is keeping pace, the main summer motoring worries are often as trivial as “what time shall I leave to make sure that I can get a good parking spot near to the beach?”
However, time relentlessly marches on and before you know it we are back in the cold hard grip of winter and the care free ways of summer can be quickly punished if you don’t prepare your car before the cold weather moves in. Below you will find a quick, handy guide to consider in order to increase the chances that your car will be hassle free during the months that you really need it:
Let the professionals check the car for you – If your MOT or service is due in the run up to winter then ask your mechanic to check that the car is ready for winter. These are the people that see broken down vehicles every day and have a wealth of knowledge and experience. If not, many garages will give your car a ‘winter check-up’, usually for a fixed fee which will check everything from your tyres, radiator fluids and battery connections for their readiness for winter.
If you can, cover your car – The summer sun can work against your car by damaging the paintwork,but winter is when you can really start to notice the impact of the weather. The obvious here is time spent digging snow or more frequently, clearing ice from the windshield. These are tasks that can be removed or at least reduced by keeping your car in a garage, or if not available, with a protective car cover.
Check your fluids regularly – Other ways the cold will affect your car is if you have become a little lackadaisical when it comes to screen wash. Tap water alone will freeze at 0°C (32°F), so it is important that you remember to add anti-freeze when topping up your water tank. Other fluid levels are important in keeping the car running smoothly and must be checked regularly. The cold weather can cause fittings in your car to contract which could lead to leaks around your various systems. Keeping a close eye on your brake, steering, and coolant tanks is a good indication that your systems are intact and therefore making it more likely that they are operating correctly. Your engine will also be under more stress due to the cold so maintaining your oil level is essential. There is a good chance that you will see an increase in oil consumption over winter, so be sure to check regularly and top up with the correct oil as required.
Check your battery – Batteries don’t like the cold. There is generally an increase in moisture in the air (moisture and electricity don’t mix well), and the cold will have a detrimental effect on the charge held within the battery. If you can, check the voltage across the terminals regularly to give you an indication that it is holding charge and make sure that the connections remain dry and tight.
Air-Conditioning – Usually associated with the sunshine and heat, it is often forgotten that air conditioning can also be used to heat the car. In fact, if the air con is turned off throughout winter, it is possible that pump seals can dry out, causing refrigerant to leak from the system. This will mean that next summer you could be hit with a bill to put this right. At least once a week, run the air con for at least 30 minutes (even to heat the car) in order to keep it running correctly.
Stay legal – Winter throws up its own niches that can cause unexpected problems for the unsuspecting motorist. We mostly all know to check tyre treads, and of course that having a deeper tread is more important in the winter months when roads can be wet or icy. However, far fewer of us give thought to other less obvious issues that could land you with a fine or points on your license. For example, it is a legal requirement to be able to see out of at least two mirrors when driving a car. Remember to clear wing mirrors and windows before setting off. Another lesser thought is around your car registration plate. So many of us these days have paid to display a private number but then allow either snow or the increased dirt from the road to cover them over during winter. Again this can land you in trouble with the police, especially if the rear plate is unreadable but again this is an easily avoided problem with a quick wipe before setting off. A little grease over the retaining screws (usually hidden behind plastic caps) can also stop unsightly rust marks running over your plate.