1. Fuel and Oil – It may seem obvious but make sure you have plenty of fuel to complete your journey or that you know for sure there are places to fill up on your route. You don’t want to run out of fuel and be stranded in the middle of nowhere in the cold, wind, rain or snow. This goes for your oil as well. Check your oil level is between the minimum and maximum. Running out of oil will damage your engine and leave you stranded too. If you don’t know how to check your oil then visit your local garage and ask them if they will show you. You will also need to check, probably in your vehicle handbook, which type of oil your car uses, there are many different ones and your handbook will tell you which one your car needs. You may need to get the oil from your dealer so do it in plenty of time.
2. Tyres – Check there are no cracks or bulges to your tyres and although the normal level of tread acceptable is 1.6mm, in the bad weather it is recommended you have 3mm of tread. You will need to check your tyre pressure as well. Your handbook will tell you what pressure they should be at and your local garage will pump them up for you. It is especially important that your tyres are in perfect condition in the snow and wet as they are the part of the car that touches the icy road.
3. Battery – If your car labours when you turn the key and it struggles to start then take it to your local garage and get the battery checked. Batteries have to work so much harder when it is cold outside and there is extra strain put on them from lights and heater etc. Batteries have a life of about 4 years so if you know that your battery is getting old it is even more important to get it checked.
4. Lights – Check your headlights are all working and there are no damaged bulbs or cracks in the glass. Remember, also, to check your fog lights, full beam, indicators and break lights. You need to make sure you keep them clean as well, removing mud that is thrown up from the road in the winter. Try and wipe them regularly. If you don’t and your lights are dirty then driving becomes harder for you and more dangerous for everyone else. Your lights allow other drivers on the road to see you and you to see them so keep them clean.
5. Engine Coolant – Check your car’s coolant level to prevent your engine over-heating and/ or even freezing. Your coolant should be a 50:50 mix of water and antifreeze. The antifreeze is especially important in the winter so check you have the right mix.
6. Wiper Blades – Wiper blades need replacing from time to time when they get cracked and fail to clean your screen fully, so test them and see if you are happy they do the job properly. They also get frozen to the screen in winter so check they lift off the glass properly before you switch them on. It is good practice to cover your screen with a blanket or sheet when parked, mainly at night, slightly wrapping up the wiper blades - if nothing else; this speeds up getting your car ready to drive on winter mornings!
7. Screen wash – Check you have the right mix of screen wash additive. In the cold, screen wash can freeze leaving you unable to clean your windscreen, so keep it topped up with the right level of fluids. Also to consider are the muddy, salty roads in the winter requiring you to clean your screen more regularly so vigilance is doubly important.
8. Winter car breakdown kit – Make sure you load your boot with the following items over the winter and this is essential in really cold spells when there is snow on the road; A shovel, warm clothes, a blanket or sleeping bag, good sturdy shoes, food and drink (energy bars maybe and bottled water and a flask of hot drink), a torch and a fully charged mobile phone. (It is also useful to have screen wash, de-icer and a scraper.) – Be prepared….
9. Breakdown cover – Breakdown cover is paramount in bad conditions so check your policy before the winter. Check what you’re covered for and add more if necessary. Always carry a contact phone number for any emergency calls (and make sure your phone is charged!)
10. Plan your journey – If the weather is really bad and if there are weather warnings in place, ask yourself, ‘Is my journey completely necessary?’ When you do drive in bad conditions, plan your journey well and plan alternative routes just in case roads are blocked. Avoid hilly areas and check the weather forecast for different places on route, particularly if it is a long journey. Always tell family or friends where you are going and what time you are setting off so they can keep track of your journey. It is always best to stick to main roads as these are more likely to be cleared.
So, the crux of the matter is not to travel unless unavoidable when the conditions are bad. Drive sensibly, usually slower and allow longer for your journey. Keep your breakdown essentials in the car and keep people informed of where you are. Keep your car in good order and make sure it is up to date with services. But remember, bad conditions can claim lives so think twice before setting off if you don’t have to. MWVC would like to wish you a safe and trouble free winter of motoring.