Essential Car Maintenance Tips for Safe Winter Motoring

As we reach the end of November, it’s time to get your vehicle winter-ready before the cold mornings really take hold. While taking care of your car is crucial all year round, the hazardous conditions of winter driving means it is especially important to have a car that’s properly maintained for poor weather and dark nights.

If you’re not sure how to get your car ready prepared, here’s our guide to making winter driving safer for you and your passengers.

Check your tyres

For your safety—and the safety of other motorists, it’s important that your car’s tyres are up to the job.

In snowy or icy conditions, the deeper the tread on your tyres, the better your car will handle in adverse weather conditions. Whilst we don’t always have snow in the UK over the winter months, we do get more than our fair share of rain, and wet conditions can be just as hazardous if the tread on your tyres is low.

The deeper the tread, the better the vehicle’s grip on the surface of the road—which is crucial on those frosty morning commutes.  The legal tread depth for tyres in the UK is 1.6mm, but in adverse condition the RAC advises a tread of 3mm. Check the condition of your tyres regularly—especially before a long journey—and replace tyres if the tread is worn.

Top up with antifreeze

Antifreeze is designed to protect your engine in cold temperatures, so it’s important to top up the levels before winter sets in. Most engines have markers on the antifreeze tank so make sure your levels sit comfortably within the gauge.

As well as preventing water from freezing in your car’s engine system, antifreeze helps to protect your engine from corrosion and also prevents scaling.

Keep your windscreen clean

Rain, sleet and roads that have been gritted all cause dirty windscreens, which can reduce your visibility when driving.  Keep your screen wash topped up before journeys to save you running out whilst on the move.

During winter, use a screenwash which contains antifreeze. In below zero-degree conditions, water will simply freeze in the bottle, making it impossible to wash the screen.

On frosty mornings, always make sure you have an ice scraper to hand. We like this scraper mitt, which includes a built-in glove to keep your fingers toasty whilst you scrape.

None of us want to spend our time clearing our car screens on cold winter days, but whilst it is tempting to pour a kettleful of boiling water over your screen to defrost it quickly this can lead to a cracked windscreen.  Only ever use lukewarm water to prevent damage, or grab a can of de-icer from the garage and use this instead.

If you’d prefer not to use a chemical de-icer, then you can make you own using one-part water to two-parts rubbing alcohol to create an effective defrosting spray at home.

Replace worn wipers

Worn windscreen wipers will simply smear snow, ice and water and cause visibility issues. Check the rubber regularly as winter can take its toll on your blades very quickly.

Should your wipers become frozen to the windscreen, free them gently with lukewarm water, as pulling them away can cause damage. Give wipers a clean with a cloth to keep remove any particles of salt or grit that could scratch your screen.

Lighting up time

In the depths of winter, it’s likely that your car lights will be on most of the time, so it’s important to check they are in full working order. Take time to check for blown bulbs or cracks in the glass that could let in water and stop the lights from functioning.

Remember it’s not just the headlights that need to be checked, make sure your fog lights, brake lights, rear lights and indicators are all in good working order too.  If you have a light that is not working – it’s not only unsafe, but an MOT failure too.

Before setting off in your car, wipe headlights clean as grime and grit from the road can make them less effective and as the nights get darker it’s important that your lights shine bright. If your headlights are still dull after a thorough clean, it could be worth investing in a headlamp restoration kit to illuminate your winter driving.

Be prepared – keep yourself safe this winter

It’s not just your vehicle that needs to be winter-ready, it wise to prepare yourself for unforeseen circumstances too.

You never know when winter conditions might cause a road closure or an accident. The last situation you want to find yourself in is at a standstill on a motorway for several hours in freezing conditions. In case the worst happens, here’s what you should be carrying in your car this winter to make sure you are safe and comfortable.

  • Warm clothes – carry an old coat or blanket in your car at all times to keep you warm as temperatures drop if you are stuck in adverse conditions or have broken down.
  • Food and water – keep a bottle of fresh water and some snacks handy in case your journey is unavoidably delayed. We recommend keeping a can of self-heating coffee in the car, so you always have a hot drink to hand.
  • Portable phone charger – keeping a phone charger in the glovebox is a good idea all year round.  In an emergency situation a hand-wound phone charger will provide a battery boost to that will help you stay connected and make calls for help.  If you don’t fancy a manual phone charger, then invest in a charging bank—just be sure to charge it before you leave home!
  • Sunglasses – as odd is it may sound, the light reflection of rain and sun on a crisp winter day can be dazzling, always keep a pair sunglasses handy in your car to prevent road glare.