In a few more weeks, you’ll be able to whip up mulled wine and break out The Great Escape DVD and hunker down under the blankets.
But with the wine, woolies and Steve McQueen movies come slippery roads, poor visibility and a huge strain on vehicle internals.
So, in the spirit of preparedness (we were in the Scouts, I’ll have you know), we have compiled the ultimate cheat sheet for preparing your car for the chilly months ahead.
If your cooling systems run out of antifreeze, you’re in for a bad time. Pumps, engines and radiators can all freeze solid. Without a heated garage, they can take days to unfreeze.
Ensure that your cooling system is a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze. That should protect your engine in even the coldest Scottish winter.
Remember to consult your vehicles handbook on what type of antifreeze to use and to avoid mixing different brands and types.
Winter takes its toll on the world’s poor batteries. With your lights beaming, wipers waving and heaters – er – heating, you can drain even the highest capacity battery in no time at all.
If your car or van lies idle over the weekend, the AA recommends a picking up a battery charger and using the trickle setting to keep your battery topped up.
And, when starting your vehicle, remember to turn off all non-essential electrical devices so all the power goes to the starter.
When it’s icy, cars take around three times longer to come to a complete stop. So, make sure your brakes are as good as they can be.
Check your brake fluid and make sure it’s between the minimum and maximum levels. And before the weather turns, regularly test your brakes for effectiveness. If you think there’s any give, or if you want to be extra safe, have then tuned by a mechanic.
With longer nights and darker skies, winter is a time you’ll want to make yourself as visible as possible. Clean your lights’ plastic covers and change the bulbs out when they get dull.
Even in the height of summer you should make sure your tyres have adequate tread. When winter rolls around, it’s even more important. If you live in a particularly snowy area, you could even consider buying snow tyres or snow socks – these will give you substantially more grip on snow or ice.
Windscreen and Wipers
The humble windscreen wiper doesn’t get the care and attention it deserves. Instead of replacing the blades for a couple of quid, people are perplexingly willing to squint through a streaky windscreen and chance it with blurs that could either signs, trees or oncoming trucks.
Seeing is important. Change your wipers.
Also, remember to check if your wiper blades are frozen to your windscreen before you leave. If you turn them on while they are frozen, you could seriously damage the motors.
Finally, low sun and dirty windscreens don’t go well together. A low sun can cause terrible glare and dramatically impair visibility. Make sure your windscreen is clean inside and out and free of chips, scrapes and smears before you leave.
When the leaves start to turn from green to gold, it’s time to stow your emergency kit in your vehicle. In the event of a breakdown or accident, this kit should keep you warm and safe until help can arrive.
Here are our recommendations for what to pack:
- Ice scraper
- Matches or lighter
- Hat & gloves
- First aid kit
- Jump start cables
- Food & water
- Sat-nav and map
- Phone charger
- Tow cable
- Salt & sand
- Distress flag