The AA is encouraging drivers to check that their car is in shape for the coming cold weeks.
“The arrival of more typical winter weather can cause problems for your car, and in more ways than many people realise”, said Tony Rich, AA patrol of the year. “Breakdowns can rocket – sometimes doubling – in very cold weather but up to half are potentially preventable through regular servicing and maintenance checks.”
Short, stop-start journeys especially during winter when the battery is under additional strain is a recipe for an electrical ‘coronary’. It’s like smoking 60 cigarettes, drinking a bottle of whisky and eating five-course meals every day without a break – you wouldn’t last long. If your car has been having problems starting and the battery’s more than five years old, get it tested by a garage and replaced if necessary.
Engine coolant also needs checking. It should be a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze but people make the mistake of topping up with plain water over the year, so it gets too diluted and can then freeze in winter. This can lead to the engine overheating and a very large repair bill. On a modern car, the coolant shouldn’t need topping up, so if you’re losing coolant, you know you have a problem. If you are concerned, a garage can quickly check the concentration.
Windscreen wash and wiper blades
During the winter, with low sun and dirty roads, it’s obviously very important to maintain clear vision. Top up the windscreen wash with a good quality, purpose-made additive to reduce the chance of freezing. While you’re at it, run your finger down the wiper blades to check for nicks and tears, as they tend to last for two years at the most. Also give the windscreen a thorough clean, inside and out, as a layer of grime quickly builds up and you’d be surprised what a difference it makes at reducing dazzle.
Walk round the car and make sure you have no cracked lens or blown bulbs and don’t forget to check full beam headlights, fog lights and indicators.
Check all tyres for condition, pressure and tread depth. We recommend at least 3mm of tread for improved grip during winter, so if the treads are getting low think about buying new tyres. Consider winter tyres, particularly if you live in a rural area, as they offer significantly better grip and braking performance on snow, ice and on wet roads in cold conditions.
Windscreen chips and bodywork damage
In cold weather any windscreen chips can grow and become irreparable, so it’s important to act quickly. Also, the salt deposits on the roads will attack any bodywork chips, so touch them up to avoid bigger problems later.
Tony Rich says: “Winter is a punishing time for your car, so it’s important to make sure it’s up to the job. If your car is due its annual service, get it done, and get into the habit of doing these regular maintenance checks.
“For additional peace of mind, many garages offer free or cheap winter car checks, which are good at flagging up potential problems. Best to get them sorted now than at the side of the road on a cold, dark evening.”