Over recent weeks, the temperature in the UK has dramatically dropped – with some remote parts even seeing snow! With that in mind, it’s essential that drivers across the country are prepared for what’s to come next. One of the best ways to stay safe behind the wheel is making sure that both you and your car are ready for the conditions. A few simple checks and a bit of maintenance is what could see your vehicle through the worst of it. Preparing your used car for winter will reduce the chances of breaking down or being involved in a nasty accident. Before the temperatures plummet even further and poor driving conditions come into play, here are some top tips for getting your used car ready for winter.
Major car recovery firms such as the AA and the RAC report a huge growth in the number of breakdowns during colder months. And that’s why it’s well worth the time preparing your used car for winter. After all, you don’t want to get left waiting in the cold. Before you set off in your vehicle, there’s a simple way to remember the checks you should be carrying out – FORCES (Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics, Screen wash).
Now, this may seem like an obvious one, but making sure your car has enough fuel in it is essential. It’s recommended that you keep at least a quarter of a tank of fuel just in case. Remember, fuel can run out if you’re delayed longer at lights or have to take unexpected routes that are longer than planned, so it’s always best to be on the safe side.
It’s reported that around 1 in 3 drivers are in control of a vehicle that is dangerously low on oil. You need to make sure that your car’s oil level is between the minimum and maximum line that’s marked out on the dipstick. Having low oil levels can cause a breakdown and lead to fatal damage within the engine.
Before you set off anywhere in your used car, doing a quick check on your tyres and wiper blades is highly recommended.
During winter, it’s recommended that your tyre’s tread depth is at least 3mm – despite the legal minimum being 1.6mm. This is to help ensure that you have enough traction during the more hazardous conditions. Along with an appropriate amount of tread, you also want to ensure that you have the correct pressure in your tyres as this will also help with grip. What’s more, you want to make sure that there are no splits or bulges on the tyre that can occur from general wear and tear.
Every so often you may need to change your car’s wiper blades. Check them for splits and cracks and whether or not they are effectively cleaning your windscreen. If not, then they’ll need to be replaced.
As part of preparing your used car for winter, checking your vehicle’s coolant levels is key. Engine coolant should be a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze, but over time this can become diluted if you’ve only been topping it up with water. Please note that this is usually a sealed system, but previous owners may have added extra water themselves so it’s always best to double check when buying a second-hand car.
Dark mornings and dangerous driving conditions can make it hard to see while behind the wheel during winter. Not only is it essential that you can see the road but it’s just as important that others can see you. Turn on your lights and do a quick check to make sure that they’re all working as they should be. It’s also a good idea to make sure that they are free from dirt, grime and snow as this can affect how they project light.
Your car’s battery conditions are vital during winter. It can suffer after being put under additional strain during cold temperatures and the extra use of lights and heating. You may find it harder to turn your car’s battery over during winter and if you’re seeing a power struggle then it may mean that it’s on in its way out, especially if it’s more than 4 years old. It could be worth getting this checked by an expert mechanic at a garage just to be on the safe side.
Because of the wet conditions during winter, you will see an increase of dirt on the road’s surface. This may lead to you using your wipers and screen wash more frequently than usual. It’s important to make sure that your screen wash levels have enough fluid inside to properly clear your windscreen. Without a high-quality screen wash (or with unsuitable wiper blades), you may find that you simply end up smearing the dirt over your windscreen rather than clearing it. In colder conditions, it’s recommended that you use an additive or pre-mix which is effective down to at least -15°C.
Do you know what tyres are on your used car? If they’ve been fit with summer tyres, then it could be worth upgrading to winter tyres. Winter tyres are specifically designed to cope with cold weather conditions (anything that’s below 7 °C). Their optimised tread compound provides extra traction and braking force on snow and ice. They’re made with a higher rubber content than summer tyres, keeping the tyre softer during colder weather which allows them to interact more with the road. Special sipes also disperse water to help improve traction in winter driving conditions.
To help prepare your used car for winter, there are additional supplies and pieces of equipment that can be handy to keep inside the vehicle. Should the worst happen and you find yourself either stuck or stranded or in the snow, making sure you’re prepared will help reduce any further risk. Here are some things to keep inside your car:
Take a look at our blog post that offers help and advice on driving safely in winter.