Winter is here, and where I live in the north east of England, we’ve already had a sprinkling of snow. It’s time to make sure your car is properly ready for the months ahead, and won’t let you down — or endanger you — at the worst possible moment.
Breakdowns will increase
Unfortunately, history suggests that many people don’t prepare, as the period between October and February is a busy time for breakdown companies.
Green Flag says that in previous years, the number of callouts during this period has risen by 26%, and that half of the callouts during the five cold months are directly related to issues caused by the cold weather.
The AA confirms the trend, reporting a 27% increase in mayday calls from motorists with seized engines, a 15% increase in the cases of flat batteries and a 12% hike in callouts to motorists driving with inappropriate tyres (i.e. using standard summer tyres in winter conditions, when you need winter tyres or all-season tyres).
Car finance specialist Creditplus has put together a new video that highlights all the key points you need to be aware of before we get any really bad weather, and it’s worth a quick look:
Video & graphic by Creditplus.co.uk
Some of the other most common causes of breakdowns also become more likely during winter:
- Batteries are not like friends; they don’t get better with age. After four years or so, a battery is past its prime and may start to get tired. Any weakness will be exposed in winter, when you are likely to be using electrical accessories such as headlights, windscreen wipers and demisters much more intensively than usual. Stop-start driving in winter conditions will really test your battery, and if you suspect your battery is lacking “juice,” charging it during the night using a multi-functional car battery charger may be a short-term solution, but you should be looking to replace it as soon as possible.
- Oil: thick, dirty oil won’t do you engine any favours and may make it harder to start — oil should be replaced at recommended intervals, and checking the dipstick regularly will ensure a hassle-free operation even in winter.
- Tyres: I know I’ve already mentioned tyres, but I’ll do it again, as they are the only thing that keeps your car under control and attached to the road. In some European countries the motorists are required to use winter tyres by law from 1st October to 1st March. Although winter tyres are not compulsory in the UK, they do offer benefits to British drivers, as the rubber compound used remains soft and flexible at low temperatures, providing much more grip than summer tyres, which become stiff and slippery… Winter tyres also have a slightly different tread that improves grip on snow, and is usually very good at dispersing water — both useful attributes in winter weather.
- Extra Care and Attention: Perhaps the single most useful thing you can do is completely free — pay attention to the conditions and slow down. An icy road can increase the braking distance more than five-fold, so that driving at 30mph on a slippery road can take more than 60 metres to stop.
Take care this winter and consider getting hold of a set of winter tyres or all-season tyres if you will be doing a lot of driving in all conditions. Make sure you are prepared, with warm clothing, a torch, a shovel, and a healthy car battery — all of which may come in useful if you get stuck in bad weather.