27 October 2014

Checking your car in the autumn & winter months

Like many other people, you may already be a bit cheesed off by the arrival of autumnal weather with darker mornings and evenings, colder weather and the chance of snow and other conditions slowing you down. Between now and around March next year, it’s important to look after your car more than ever; but how?

Time & planning: We know there’s nothing better than keeping the lovely warm bed covers pulled over your head, but autumn and winter driving requires more preparation and journey time. If your windscreen is iced up or covered in snow, don’t make the silly mistake of pouring boiling kettle water on it, as you might crack it! Keep your plastic ice scraper (ok, or debit card!) inside the house so you can easily get to it, and properly clear snow or ice from all windows (not just a little patch of the windscreen!) so you’ll be able to see out there on the roads. Set off earlier than normal if possible, as traffic can often be slower in autumn and winter months.

Give your car regular check-ups: We know it’s not nice standing out in the rain and cold with your bonnet up, so when a better moment comes along, spend a few minutes checking your car over. Are the windscreen wipers in good condition, not leaving any smears on the windscreen? Look at your tyres and put your hand on them to feel that there’s a good amount of tread (for better grip) left on them. You can buy tyre tread gauges really cheaply from car accessories shops or online.

Make sure your washer bottle is topped up with water and the right amount of antifreeze, so you won’t come a cropper when you need to wash your windscreen. You should also make sure all your lights work, from your brake lights to the headlights, which you should really put on dipped beam in dark weather so other drivers can see you. If your battery has seemed a bit iffy, get it replaced before winter sets in. If these checks are doing your head in, you could always ask your parents, an older sibling, friend or neighbour – and most garages provide free winter car checks.

Little things: If you don’t fancy the idea of spending hours sitting in your car freezing your bits off while you’re stuck in traffic, why not put a thick jumper, coat, fleece or blanket in your boot? It may sound a bit sad, but you might be glad you did! It’s important that you can contact people if you’re going to be late or have got stuck somewhere, so invest a few quid in a mobile phone charger for your car, or even a spare phone battery. Again, you may be pleased you did. Oh, make sure you have enough petrol or diesel in your tank, too, as you’d feel a bit daft if you ran out.

Winter driving - 1

Drive differently: With the potential for ice of the roads, rain making conditions hazardous and other seasonal factors such as poorer light, it’s best to slow your driving style down a bit. Keep your distance on the motorway and when driving on unlit roads especially in rural areas, take extra care as invisible ‘black’ ice may be on the road. If a decent covering of snow is on the ground, try setting off in 2nd gear and whatever you do, don’t speed off too quickly or slam your brakes on as you’ll spin your wheels or slide about.

We hope you’ve found these tips useful. Follow them and you’ll be able to spend more time focussing on the fun things.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.