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7 steps to prepare your car for winter

Vehicle breakdowns increase in winter months due to the plummeting temperatures and worsening weather. It is therefore important for drivers to consider the different demands on our vehicles that the season change brings, and ensure we take every step to preparing our vehicles for the inevitable decline in driving conditions.

Just a few minutes of maintenance can prepare your car for winter and reduce the risk of breakdown, all from the comfort of our own homes.

Here are our seven easy steps to preparing your car for winter.

1) Service your car

Getting your vehicle serviced at the recommended intervals is a given for general vehicle health all year round. However it's particularly relevant as we head into the winter months, as the cold weather will exacerbate any existing problems... potentially leading to more costly repairs. 

Whether annually or more frequently depending on your mileage, a regular service will check the vital components of your car and rectify any discovered problems. These consistent checks ensure any issues with your vehicle are picked up before they worsen, or indeed prevent issues from arising in the first place.

In addition to this peace of mind, a full service history is also a clear sign that the car has been looked after and therefore is an easy way to minimise the depreciation of your car.

A full service history is a compulsory requirement if you lease your car and you will therefore face financial penalties if you return your lease without one. Why? Because the cost of leasing your car is based on depreciation. Set standards, including mileage and service history, exist to enable the accurate calculation of a vehicle's residual value and this forms the basis of your lease cost. Because irregular servicing would reduce the overall value of the car, you would be expected to cover this extra depreciation at the end of your term.

2) Check your battery

Winter conditions put added pressure on our car batteries. This is both through a loss in output caused by cold conditions and the increasing demand through use of lights and heating. Keeping warm if you are stuck in traffic (which is increasingly likely in bad or cold weather) will depend on a healthy battery and we know running out of juice mid traffic jam will not be on your to-do list.

Therefore, if your battery is straining when you turn the ignition, now is the time to replace it.

3) Check your tyres

This is a check that should already be a part of your everyday driving routine, but again comes into particular prominence in the winter months. As the only point of contact with the road, and as elements crucial to both steering and braking, our tyres are paramount to both safety and comfort.

Our tyre’s tread depth dramatically affects our traction with the road and therefore our stopping distance. Ensuring your tyres have a tread depth of at least 3mm is recommended in winter as opposed to the legal limit of 1.6mm. You may also have the option of changing to winter tyres which are specially designed to optimise performance and safety in winter conditions.

As always, it is also imperative to check your tyres for general wear and tear. This includes bulges, tears or cracks anywhere on the tyre surface.

4) Check your lights

As the clocks change and the darker nights and mornings hit, maximising visibility with effective lights is imperative to the safety of all road users. Regardless of how much use your lights have had over the summer months, we recommend doing a walk around to ensure all bulbs are still working, and changing any that are out.

It is then best practice to clean all lights around the vehicle, and ensure misting or clouding is dealt with.

5) Check your windscreen

Winter brings with is less than ideal driving conditions and visibility; and both front and rear windscreens should be a primary focus. Cleaning these inside and out will improve visibility and will also enable you to further check their condition. If you locate any chips now is the time to get them repaired as these can worsen in cold weather. Salt from road gritting will also cause any chips in paintwork to deteriorate quickly.

It is important to check the condition of your wipers: ensuring that all dirt and liquid is easily removed by each movement. Sufficient washer fluid will be essential in winter months to cope with the increasingly wet and muddy road conditions. Include de-icer in your windscreen washer solution at a ratio of 50/50, and only use de-icer to defrost your screen (never hot water).

The RAC report that breakdown calls because of frozen wipers are becoming more common in winter. Using your wipers while they are frozen to the screen can result in a blown fuse or broken mechanics. Therefore, ensure your wipers are completely free before use to prevent damaging them or your car!

6) Carry a breakdown kit

Keeping a collection of extra items in your car through the winter months will be invaluable in the event of a breakdown. A torch, a high-vis jacket, extra warm clothing and blankets, plus snacks and drink will make the horrible eventuality of a breakdown not only more safe, but more bearable. Keeping your mobile phone topped up will also prove essential if you experience any issues while traveling.

Remember that breakdown cover is included with your lease car. So ensure you are familiar with the details of the breakdown service supplied by your lease provider.

7) Prepare for your journey

Any long journeys will require extra preparation during winter.

Always check the forecast and your full route for any blockages or accidents in case you have to prepare an alternative route. As the risk of accident increases in winter, allowing extra time for your journey to account for any possible delays is imperative. It is also advised to have at least double the fuel required for your journey at the offset.

Many dealerships offer free or discounted winter health checks that give your vehicle a thorough look over. For example, it is also advised to check your brake pads, brake discs and brake fluid going into winter to ensure they are responsive under strain. For those of us unable or unwilling to check these elements at home, an official health check will take care of it for you.

If you are planning a long journey this winter, check out these alternative UK motorway pit stops.

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Posted on 25th October 2019 at 1:46 PM

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