Looking after your car in winter

Written by

Tara Covell

Monday 25th October 2021

We all know that we need to take extra care of our vehicles during the winter months and now that the temperature’s dropping, making sure your car is running on top form should be a priority.

Taking the time to conduct a  few simple checks such as testing your brakes or making sure your battery is working efficiently can prevent any unnecessary damage and reduce the risk of breaking down – as well saving you some money too.

We’ve put together a handy checklist of things to keep an eye on this winter.


Tyres

It’s always good to keep an eye on your tyres to make sure that there's no signs of wear and tear or damage caused by potholes/debris from the road.

We also recommend taking the time to check the tread depth on all your tyres. It should be at least 1.6mm in a continuous band around the central ¾ of the tyre, which is the legal requirement on UK roads.

A simple way of checking is by doing the 20p test - insert a 20 pence piece into your tread and if your tyre comes above the outer band of the coin, then it’s above the legal limit.

Don’t forget to test your tyre pressure either - low pressure will not only shorten the life of the tyre but can also decrease your fuel efficiently meaning you’ll be spending more cash at the petrol station.


Body work

Salt corrosion can be one of the more expensive issues to fix if you don’t take any preventive measures.

When dealing with minor corrosion, give the area a good clean with warm soapy water or white vinegar on an old tea towel. Either one of these two ways will work and help stop the damage spreading.

If the corrosion is more severe, then a trip to your local hardware shop to buy some rust and corrosion remover may be in order. Make sure that you follow the instructions on the product, and this solution could prevent a costly trip to the mechanic.

To prevent corrosion occurring in the first place, clean your car regularly throughout the winter months, especially after driving on gritted roads.


Inspect your brakes

If you notice anything out of the ordinary when breaking such as rattling, squealing, a spongey feeling, or a noticeable increase in stopping distance, then it’s time to get your car’s brakes checked.

Stopping distances are vastly increased on icy or snowy roads anyway, so worn out or faulty brakes will only amplify them further - so it's best to just get them sorted.


Engine

It doesn’t hurt to pop your bonnet and have a look under there occasionally, especially if you haven’t used your car for a while.

Things like debris, insects or even animal nests may be clogging up your car and affecting its performance so, if you spot any of these, get them cleared out as soon as you can. It’s also worth taking this time to check your fluid levels are correct and top up as required – engine oil, antifreeze, screen wash, etc.

If your car hasn’t been driven in a while, there’s a chance that oil may have dripped down to the bottom of the drain pan, leaving your cylinders dry. An easy fix for this is to ‘fog the engine’. This basically means using a specially formulated spray containing petroleum that will keep your engine lubricated and prevent corrosion.

The best way to do this is to start the engine, remove the air filter and spray into the air intake of each cylinder. Once you have done this, leave the engine on for a further 10 seconds and turn it off.  Finally remove the spark plugs and spray your fog oil into each cylinder before replacing them.


Look after your battery

Cold weather can take its toll on your car's battery so if you find your car slow to start as the temperature drops, your battery is likely on its way out. If you have any doubts, it’s best to just get it by your local garage to be on the safe side.


And finally…

Pack an emergency kit

Once you’re finished prepping your car for winter, pack up the essentials to leave in the boot should the worst happens.

Fill a bag or box with spare headlight bulbs, a set of jump leads, a torch (plus batteries), a decent tow strap/bar, a high-vis vest, warm clothes, spare phone charger, chocolate or sugary snacks and bottled water.

If you live or travel through an area regularly known for severe snowfall, make sure to carry wooden planks, a shovel, and some old carpet. These can all help get a stranded car moving.

Don’t forget to pack a small selection of tools and spares just in case - like a bottle of coolant, oil and an ancillary belt. You’ll never know when they could come in handy.


Low-cost car loans from Hitachi Personal Finance

If you’re ready to upgrade your current motor, then our low-cost car loans starting from just 3.1% APR Representative between £7,500 and £25,000 could put you in the driving seat fast than you think.

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