As I write this, I’m currently shivering on the sofa, clutching a blanket & sipping on some peppermint tea after a mammoth session of playing in the snow with my nephew. Oh hai snow, thanks for blessing us with your presence!
Now as much as I love looking at snow, I absolutely hate driving in it, especially when the slush starts appearing. There is nothing worse than skidding on black ice and praying that you don’t end up crashing into something.
When I was first learning to drive, I started in the winter, on the advice of my friend from http://gearheads.org. Some may think I was crazy but if you manage to master winter driving, you can master any scenario (well… maybe not the flash floods that we’ve seen this winter!). One driving lesson, I was travelling through a rather rough suburb and my car was hit by snowballs courtesy of a rowdy gang. I had to do an emergency stop in black ice, control the car without crashing and deal with my driving instructor screaming abuse at the gang. Oh the joys!
Fast forward 4 years and earning the nickname Penelope Pitstop by my boyfriend, LV= got in touch to highlight 9 Winter Car Tips to ensure my car is ready for the winter season and I’m sharing them with you.
Get your car serviced
Regular car maintenance can help to prevent car problems, so if you haven’t had your car checked by a professional in a while, get it serviced before the winter weather kicks in.
My service is booked for Tuesday and I know there are a few things I need to get sorted in my car, in particular topping up my oil level. Do I know where the oil goes? Yes. Have I bothered to do it myself? No. With my car, I get all servicing included in the payments which is ideal as I never need to worry about having a spare £100 to pay for it at the time. Bonus.
Check your car battery
Ensure your car battery has been checked, charged or replaced. Using your lights and heaters more during the cold season will put more strain on the battery. If your car hasn’t been used in a while, you may need to re-charge the battery or use a lithium jump starter to get it going and then drive a while to fully charge it. Batteries will often be more expensive to replace after a breakdown, so be prepared and shop around for good value.
Thankfully in the 4 years I’ve been driving, I’ve only ever had a battery issue once. I was at a drive-thru movie and had the heating and radio on. This causes a strain on the battery and after the movie ended, my car wouldn’t start. Luckily, there were people at hand to kick start the battery so I didn’t need to call anyone for assistance. Shortly afterwards, my car was due a service and my battery was replaced for free after finding a defect in it.
Check your tyres
Your tyres are vital to steer and brake on the roads, so they should always be a priority. Examine the tread depth and condition and ensure your pressure is checked; overnight cold air will make your tyres flatten slightly until they warm up when they’re driven on again. Check your tyre pressure every two weeks to make sure they’re the right pressure.
I’ve just set a mental reminder to top up the pressure on my tyres. I know it is a little lower than it should be thanks to my little handy in-car computerised system. As the roads surrounding my house and work are covered in snow, I really need to get this sorted ASAP.
Get under the bonnet
Use antifreeze to protect your car against frost damage. This should normally be a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water all year round. When topping up your engine coolant, ensure that it is between the minimum and maximum markers.
I’ve just asked myself “How do I know I need to top it up?”. I need to have a word with myself! I know about oil and I know about the windscreen but I think I missed the part about engine coolant. I’ve never had to do this previously, maybe I’ll just leave it to the professionals? I’m ashamed of myself.
Check your lights
Check all your lights are in working order and clean; don’t forget fog lights and full beam headlights which you might need more with poor weather and darker evenings. You should also check your hazard lights, which could be crucial during a breakdown.
Don’t be like my brother and drive with only one light working properly. No words.
Check your brakes
In the winter months your car’s ability to stop in a shorter distance can significantly decrease if the roads are wet and icy. Your brakes should always be kept in good condition. If you’re unsure get them checked by a professional.
Braking + Ice = Disaster. If you find yourself skidding, always drive INTO it. Never away from it. Why? It will cause more skidding and more than likely end in disaster. It’s always petrifying no matter how long you’ve been driving for!
Check your wiper blades
If your windscreen wipers are squeaking, this can mean they’re damaged and need to be replaced. If not, make sure your windscreen and wipers are cleaned, keeping your screen clear of the dirty spray from other cars and helping to lessen the effects of the glare of the low winter sun. Don’t forget to top up your screen wash; check that it has antifreeze in the mix too.
In the boot of my car, I keep a large bottle of antifreeze windscreen wash for when I need to top up the tank. I seem to use more in the winter time as muck seems to love jumping on my front window! It’s always good keeping this close.
Have a winter car kit
This might include a torch, blanket, screen wash, scraper, de-icer, a shovel, supplies and a fully charged mobile phone should you breakdown. Purchase an in car charger to make sure you’re never caught out.
The first item I had in my car kit was a foldable shovel than my mom purchased at Morrisons for £10. I’ve only had to use it once to break some ice underneath my tyres but it worked a treat! In the boot of my car now, I have some bottles of water, snacks and the items mentioned above which were sent to me by LV=. You never know what will happen during the winter. 5 years ago, we had severe snow storms that left people stranded overnight. That isn’t a situation I’d ever want to be in.
Get the right cover
Breakdown cover is very important to have, especially during the winter months so make sure to check your policy cover. If you do have cover remember to have your breakdown membership card and breakdown documents with you on your journey.
I’ve never broken down so I’ve been quite lucky, touch wood. I’m the worst type of driver, I don’t know how to change a tyre. That’s the beauty of having breakdown cover, right?
Do you have any winter car tips? Do you hate driving in the winter as much as I do? What do you have in your car kit? Let me know in the comments!