Get it serviced
It might seem obvious, but get your car serviced.
It can be all too easy to forget to do this as often as we should – that year can come around more quickly than we realise. If your car is still under warranty, then regular servicing as per the manufacturer’s requirements is a must.
However, it will pay to get things checked before winter kicks in regardless. Many dealers offer free winter health checks so take advantage of these if available near you.
You can also do a lot of the checking yourself, like oil land waters levels, engine coolant and make sure your wipers don’t need replaced.
Get your brake pads, brake discs and brake fluid checked to make sure your car is stopping as well as it should. This is especially important in winter when roads are wet or icy. Check the fan belt and alternator belt are tight and not worn.
Check the spark plugs and other leads are in good condition. Do this regularly through the winter – and, indeed, all year round.
Check your tyres
Tyres are very important – they’re the only part of your car that’s in contact with the road, after all. The legal minimum for tread on your tyres is 1.6mm, but in practice at least 3mm is recommended. Make sure your tyres are in otherwise good condition, checking for cracks in the side walls and other irregularities.
Winter tyres are also worth considering. Although it can seem a bit extreme in the UK and could be considered an unnecessary cost, winter tyres are designed to deal with the worst of weather.
And, if you swap them over in the summer, both sets of tyres will last twice as long, making the overall cost little different.
Remember the basics
Don’t forget the basics that can be done very quickly.
Keep your lights clean. Although it can often seem pointless to wash your car every weekend during the winter, do make sure that your lights are clean. Dirt from the road, especially wet roads, is much worse in poor winter weather and headlights quickly accumulate a grubby film that can reduce the effectiveness of your lights dramatically, so clean them often.
The same goes for your windscreen and wipers. A dirty screen can add to the effect of glare when driving in the dark and make for a streaky view in the rain – which is both annoying and dangerous. Clean the wipers themselves, while checking for deterioration, to make sure they wipe the screen smoothly and without streaking. Replace them if you need to.
Be ready for the worst
Don’t think that preparing for the worst is a silly idea. If you do break down, you’ll be glad for that box of handy stuff you put in your boot for such eventualities.
Include a shovel – in case your car is physically stuck in snow or mud – a torch, blanket, hi-vis vest, screen wash, de-icer and scraper and food and drink supplies.
Make sure, too, that you have a fully charged mobile phone, or the means to charge it.
Neil Worth, road safety officer for GEM, the road safety and breakdown recovery organisation, said: “If you need to drive, have a plan ready that can help you postpone a journey. “Agree to reschedule a meeting or a visit if it’s not vital. In that way, you’re avoiding a lot of potential trouble for yourself, and ensuring you won’t be putting additional strain on emergency and recovery crews, who are sure to be at full stretch in the coming days. “If you’re out and about when snow hits, then the simple preparation measures suggested above really can make a big difference to help keep you safe.”
Check your cover
Above all else, check you’ve got adequate breakdown cover in place.
If the worst does happen, you want to get home quickly and safely.
Breakdown cover these days has various levels, so make sure yours covers what you need. Basic cover will get you roadside assistance – and if your car can be fixed you’ll be on your way. If not, you need cover that will at least get your car to the garage.
If you can afford it, higher-level cover will get you on to a destination of your choice.
Also check your insurance cover. It goes without saying that the risk of a crash increases in bad weather, so check you’re covered if the worst happens. And make sure that you carry details of what to do if you do break down or have an accident – phone numbers and policy numbers are key.