Preparing your Car for Winter
The temperatures are finally starting to fall here in the UK after a long period of unseasonably mild weather. That means everyone’s starting to wrap up a little more as winter starts to arrive in full.
But as well as getting yourself prepared for the colder temperatures, you might want to think about getting your car ready too. So let’s take a look at some of the easy ways to get your car ready for winter.
Consider winter tyres
Winter tyres are often overlooked by many people in the UK. Though in many parts of Europe they’re mandatory during the winter months, on these shores they’re not required by law and, as a result, aren’t fitted by most people.
However, winter tyres have a huge impact on grip levels when the weather turns cold. They operate best when you’re in temperatures of under seven degrees. Here, they outperform traditional summer tyres when it comes to braking distances and traction on snow and ice. So if you’ve not considered winter tyres, you might want to check them out - but remember that you’ll need to swap back to summer or all-season tyres when things start to warm up again.
Remember snow chains
Now snow chains probably won’t be required by the vast majority of drivers in the UK, but if you’re planning on heading abroad this winter period then it’s a good idea to have them packed in case you go to areas where they’re a legal requirement. As the name suggests, they’re only to be used over snow (and ice), as they can quickly damage a clear road.
It’s a good idea to have a run-through of fitting snow chains before you depart, too, as you’ll have a better understanding of how they go onto your car’s wheels before the need arises.
Check your lights
Your lights play a hugely important role during the darker winter months. Not only are they required to light up the road ahead of you, but they’re also a key component in making sure you’re visible to other road users.
So double-check that everything is working as it should. Test your main and dipped beams, and ensure that your indicators and brake lights are working too. You could ask a friend or relative to check while you activate the lights, or you could drive close to a reflective surface - like a garage door - and check them yourself.
The added dirt and grime that is strewn across the UK’s roads at winter time means you’ll be going through more screenwash than usual. So make sure that your car has plenty of it and top it up with an appropriate screenwash if it’s low. Don’t be tempted to just use water as this can freeze during colder temperatures and damage the system.
Also make sure that you’ve got the right levels of both oil and coolant, too.
A little planning can go a long way during the winter. If you have the misfortune of getting stuck at the roadside with a breakdown, then a few items can help to keep you both safe and warm. So make sure you keep some spare, warm clothes in the boot and a blanket to help if you’re stranded.
You might also want to pack a torch, some water and snacks and a fully-charged smartphone power bank.
Some vehicles feature a clever system called Light Assist which can help make driving in the dark safer. It works by using lights that can automatically swivel in the direction you’re heading, lighting up corners and turns in the process.
Plus, when you unlock your car at night, this system will automatically activate the lights so you can see where you’re heading. This system also automatically adapts your lights to the situation, activating full beam when there’s nothing ahead and dipping it when it detects oncoming road users.
Night Vision might sound like something reserved for sci-fi, but a good number of cars actually incorporate this technology today. The systems use infrared cameras to view the road ahead and can automatically ‘see’ objects in the road. An image of the road ahead will then be transmitted to the instrument binnacle ahead of the driver. Depending on the model, the system might also sound a warning if it detects something in the road ahead.
Your windscreen takes a real beating through winter, so it’s a good idea to give it a check over from time to time. Keep an eye out for chips in the screen, as these can easily be repaired and saved from worsening into a crack. If a crack does appear, however, it’ll only get worse as the temperatures fall and will need replacing.
Remember too that if your car is heading in for an MOT, a chip - if it’s located in the driver’s field of view - could result in a fail.
Many cars on sale today incorporate some form of Winter or Snow Mode. This can really help when you’re travelling over slippery surfaces, as well as in snowy or icy conditions.
Switching your car into Snow mode can really help when attempting to drive away when you’re on slippery roads, too. When combined with winter tyres it means you’ll have a whole lot of traction.