In winter, we withdraw to our homes and gather around the fire, perhaps with a hot drink. Unlike us, a car cannot do this; it simply sits outside and endures all that the weather can throw at it. Yet like us, the cold and wet affects it in many ways and this in turn affects performance.
Many modern motors have a dashboard warning symbol (usually a snowflake or similar) that tells us that road conditions are cold. If you see that symbol and have not already ‘winterised’ the vehicle, trouble may be just down the road. Here’s what car owners should be doing now:
Check The Tyres Yourself
Worn tyre are hazardous at any time; in winter they can be lethal. Without any tread to siphon away rainwater or to bite into snow. Even if they are above the legal minimum for tread depth, they are still not as good as they could be. Sure, it’s an expense but there’s plenty of good new brands around now that can save money and still deliver on safety. As an extra tip, windscreen wiper blades are so cheap why not replace them every year for a clean, clear screen?
Check The Air Con And Heated Screens
To work at its best, air conditioning needs servicing from time to time. If yours isn’t running cold or demisting the glass when the interior steams up (damp Autumn conditions are a good time to check) then it needs to be re-gassed by a professional garage. Make sure the rear heated screen is doing its job too.
Regularly check The Screen Wash Reservoir And The Engine Oil
This tank of washing water always runs at out at inconvenient times. Check it daily to make sure that there’s plenty in there and that it is a good mix of water and an antifreeze solution to wash away road dirt and ice. They sell it at the supermarket.
Think Of Yourself
An ice scraper and a couple of clean microfibre cloths should be kept to hand in the cabin. If you use them, and who doesn’t, make sure your mobile phone is charged up and has emergency contacts on speed dial. Keep a good torch to hand and a routine tool kit in case of breakdown or a flat. If forced outside of the car ensure there’s a warm coat and gloves in the cabin. Snacks and water are good too, in case of traffic issues.
Consider Adapting Your Driving Style
Slow down is the first rule that goes without saying plus being acutely aware of what is happening in the immediate vicinity. When slowing or stopping allow more time and brake evenly without stabbing at the pedal. When moving away from rest on ice or snow, rather than using first gear, which generates a lot of torque causing tyres to spin out, try to move away slowly in second or even third gear. This will help tyres to bite down and maintain grip.
If In Doubt Get The Vehicle Serviced
Your local professional garage can, as part of a service, examine the vehicle and advise on any points that may need attention, like those mentioned above. Everything may look okay on the surface but there may be underlying issues. A full service before winter ensures that the car will be fit to handle the conditions.