How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

12th Nov 2019

Winter is by far the most treacherous season for drivers. Freezing temperatures and decreased visibility only add to the tricky driving conditions we have to face over the winter months.

Getting your car ready for winter is key. Our busy lifestyles seem to be the excuse for not properly preparing ourselves, and our cars. However, just a few simple steps can make winter hassle-free for motorists. Discover our top winter car maintenance tips below for drivers, which could help you avoid unpleasant situations that are seen far too often during the winter months.

In an age where the modern car can pretty much do anything, we sometimes take it for granted that a car can sort itself out during winter. Heated windscreens, mirrors, washer jets, steering wheels and seats can make the winter months easier for drivers. However, there are still a lot of people who fail to prepare - as the saying goes; 'fail to prepare, prepare to fail'.

Inspect Your Tyres

Checking tyre pressure

Tyres should have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm to not only be legal in the UK, but also to ensure your safety whilst driving. However, for added grip in winter conditions we recommend at least 3mm to ensure your vehicle can perform properly as well as maintaining safe stopping distances. Don't forget to check your spare too, if you have one.

In addition to having road legal tyre tread depth, it's important that you also check tyre pressure as under-inflated tyres will use more fuel and therefore be less efficient. 

Knowing how to look after your tyres can help reduce fuel bills and emissions as well as extending the life of your tyres. You may also want to consider switching your tyres to winter or snow tyres. 

Front, Four and Rear-Wheel Drive Cars

Range Rover in the snow

Four-wheel drive cars will become worth their weight in gold come the winter months, due to their enhanced traction.

Front-wheel drive cars tend to be quite good in snowy conditions as the engine over the front wheels means traction on the front end is ample and suitable in conditions where the car is likely to become stuck.

Owners of rear-wheel drive cars, particularly certain versions of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, may want to add weight within the boot to enable more traction given to the rear-wheels if conditions include snow. Another tip would be to use snow chains on the rear-wheels, during heavy snowfall only.

Check Fluids

Oil Check

Getting a car serviced before winter is also good practice, as it will mean the car is in optimum condition, with all fluid levels, such as oil and antifreeze, checked and topped up, if necessary.

Coolant should be topped up to its optimum level between the min and max lines and it should be mixed 50/50 with antifreeze in winter to ensure the coolant doesn't freeze, as this can result in the car overheating and an unnecessary repair bill.

During winter, you're likely to rely on your screenwash heavily thanks to the wet, muddy and salty road conditions. Therefore, it's important to keep your screenwash topped up to prevent you running out when you really need to clear your windscreen. Whilst checking your screenwash, it's worth checking the condition of your wipers too and replacing them if the rubber has worn away.

Lights and Bulbs

Car driving in the snow with headlights on

It may be blindingly obvious, but your car's exterior lights are super important throughout the winter months. Shorter days mean there is a higher chance that you will be driving in the dark and thanks to poor weather conditions you can expect reduced visibility, requiring headlights and fog lights to be used more frequently than during the summer months.

Not only can you fail an MOT test if you have a bulb out on your car, you are also impacting your safety and the safety of other drivers as lights improve your visibility of the road as well as your ability to be seen by others. Furthermore, you can actually be pulled over by the police for having a car headlight out.

Whilst checking your lights are all in fully working condition it's worth checking all lights, indicators and reflectors are clean as cars are often a lot dirtier in winter.

Test Your Battery

Driving in the snow

According to Axa your car is 51% more likely to have battery problems in winter and the AA confirms battery issues are the most common cause of call-outs in the winter months. 

More battery power is consumed during winter as headlights are running more frequently and heaters are used more often too. Additionally, colder temperatures and damp conditions can affect the chemical reactions within the battery which makes them less efficient. A lot of the time batteries fail in winter due to damage caused from heat in the summer, however, the damage isn't apparent until the weather gets cold

Car batteries tend to be need replacing after about four years. If your vehicle's battery is nearing the end of its life try and be mindful of things like leaving lights, heating or the stereo on when the engine isn't running.

Winter Essentials

Winter essentials kit

Items to carry within the boot, as part of a car winter survival kit should include:

  • Shovel - useful if the vehicle becomes stuck in snow or mud
  • Torch - poor visibility and areas which are not well lit will mean a torch is highly useful, some of the latest smartphones have a built-in torch feature
  • Hi-Vis Jacket - it's important to be safe and be seen if you're broken down at the side of the road.
  • Blanket - useful for keeping warm, for safety reasons you must be out of the car if broken down on a motorway/dual carriageway
  • Scraper - helps clear ice and snow from windscreens in wintery conditions
  • Screenwash - always handy to carry spare in case you run out
  • Refreshments - being stranded in the snow or breaking down on a wet dark night is bad enough without being hungry or thirsty too, so always carry some food and drink in the car
Following these steps will ensure your car is prepared for winter in the best way possible. Your car may be fine and not require any work before winter, but the common saying goes - 'better to be safe than sorry'.

Stratstone offer a free vehicle health check to save you the hassle of checking the above, so book in now at your nearest Stratstone dealer.