Getting your car winter-ready
Yup, it’s nippy out. And yes, the grand stretch in the evenings is long, long gone. Time to start thinking about how you’re going to make sure your car is ready for the oncoming cold and wet (as opposed to the warm and wet of the summer…).
Tyres are, always and above most other considerations, the most important thing to consider. You don’t strictly speaking need to switch to winter tyres (they work best at ambient air temperatures of below seven degrees Celsius, so it’s really only for a few weeks that they’re truly effective), but if you are coming around to changing tyres anyway, then it might be worth considering switching to a set of all-season tyres from a good, recognised brand. Otherwise, make sure your pressures are correct all round, check for visual damage and check the tread depth. If it’s between 3mm and 1.6mm all round then get them changed.
The days of the water in your engine icing up and bursting your engine block are pretty much long gone, but it’s still well worth having a check of oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid and yes, adding some anti-freeze to the engine coolant. Don’t hesitate to ask your local garage or motor factors for a bit of advice or assistance, and it’s a good idea to check the engine for any obviously frayed or split pipes or hoses. Cold weather puts extra stress on all of your car’s systems, so it’s worth checking for any visible defects before the winter proper sets in. Oh, and always make sure your windscreen washers are topped up with water and detergent. Our grubby roads mean windscreens grime-up in seconds, and it’s actually an offence to drive with empty or defective washers.
3. Wipers and windscreens.
This should be an obvious one, but make sure your wipers are in good condition (check for cracks in the rubber or any splits) and if they need replacing, don’t panic — €20 buys you a new set from a good quality brand and it’s rarely more than a five-minute job to change. Just follow the instructions on the packet to make sure they’re clipped in properly. We have heard of wipers flying off mid-sweep because they weren’t properly secured… It’s also a good idea to check your windscreen and make sure there are no splits or cracks in the glass (cold weather can really make those worse, especially if there’s a heavy frost) and give it a really good clean — low winter sun can cause serious glare and a dirty or scratched screen can make that even worse. Also a good idea, and don’t laugh, to keep a pair of good quality sunglasses in the car for the same reason.
Should we, as do the French, have a law about keeping a spare set of bulbs in the car at all times? It might not be a bad idea, although modern headlight design does mean it’s incredibly awkward, sometimes outright impossible, to actually get at and change bulbs yourself. Still, you should at least check that all of your lights, reflectors and indicators are working properly, and if not, then your local motor factors will usually be able to swap them out and replace them for you for a reasonable fitting fee. If your headlights are looking a bit dull and yellowed, there are some excellent headlight cleaning kits on the market or, if you don’t fancy splashing out on one of those, a rub down with whitening toothpaste should restore them to gleaming factory freshness.
5. Heating and ventilation.
You rely on your fan and air conditioning system to keep your screens clear in the winter, so while keeping you cool isn’t a priority, air conditioning does make demisting an awful lot quicker. Make sure the system is working properly, and consider getting a re-gas done if it seems slow to demist. If you don’t have air conditioning, then just make sure that the fan and heater are working properly and not giving off any odd smells.
6. Extra equipment.
Is it worth keeping things like a shovel, blanket, torch etc in the car? Probably not all the time (extra weight and stuff taking up space in your boot), but it is worth having such things on hand, and keep an eye on the weather forecast for any warnings of sudden cold snaps or snow and ice.
Keep safe everyone, and enjoy your driving.