Winter’s perhaps the least attractive season for getting out on the road, but for most of us, hibernating until the spring isn’t an option. If you’ve no choice but to use the car through the winter on the daily commute or school run, then take steps now to make sure your car gets through the cold, wet and snow with the least expense and inconvenience possible.
Unless you live very rurally, then swapping your standard tyres for winter tyres probably isn’t worth the expense. With each new winter tyre coming in at between £80 and £120, and garages charging £15 per tyre to fit and balance, the bill for four new tyres could easily be £500. Even if you’re not swapping your tyres for a whole new set, then any winter car maintenance should start with giving the tyres a once-over. Make sure the tread at the very least conforms to the legal minimum, and preferably has a deeper tread. If you spot any bald patches, or the tyres are not wearing evenly, ask a mechanic to check it over.
Get on Top of Maintenance
Winter is a busy time for most mechanics. Not only are they dealing with the standard servicing and MOT tests which continue through the winter months, but the adverse weather often leads to an increase in crashes and accidents. So if your car is due for a MOT test or service before the end of the winter, book a slot in plenty of time. Servicing isn’t a legal requirement, so you have some flexibility over when you book the car in. MOT is a legal requirement for all cars over three years old, and if you book a MOT within 30 days of the current MOT expiring, the validity will be extended by a year.
Windscreen Wash and Antifreeze
Salt and grit on the road, coupled with poor weather, we all use more washer fluid in the winter than in the warmer months. All major supermarkets and DIY stores will sell a range of different fluids for topping up your windscreen wash, and the exact choice of brand isn’t important. For winter motoring, look for a fluid which is rated to -10c or lower so that it won’t freeze in the reservoir on particularly cold nights. Usually, it’s cheaper to get the type of fluid which you dilute yourself, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Every year motorists are caught out by a sudden dump of snow or a road closure which means they’re stranded on the motorway overnight. The best way to avoid this is by closely following the weather reports on television and radio, and taking “do not travel” warnings seriously. It still makes sense though to have an emergency bag stashed in the boot with some winter essentials. Pack a warm coat and a pair of sturdy shoes or boots – you don’t want to be walking miles to the nearest motorway junction in your office shoes. Put in some cereal bars or chocolate, and a bottle of water of soft drink. An extra mobile phone power pack is also a good idea, and perhaps a small blanket.
Leave Extra Space, and Time
We all remember learning about braking distances when we sat our driving tests. Although you’re not expected to learn the exact numbers, the key thing to remember is that it takes a lot longer to stop in the wet or on ice. Leave more space than you think you might need between you and the car in front. On a similar theme, leave more time that you think you’ll need for a winter journey as tailbacks and weather disruption can be hard to predict.