How To Take Care Of Your Car This Winter

This blog was originally published on 12th April 2021.
It has most recently been updated on 6th January 2022.

Your Questions…

During winter, your car does a lot for you.  It takes you Christmas shopping, it hauls your tree home, it keeps you warm before you brave the cold outdoors.  But what do you do for your car?

Here at Collect Service Go, we have found the most asked questions on the internet about how to look after your car in winter, so you can be in the know!

You asked:

  • How do I take care of my car in the winter?
  • What should I check on my car before winter?
  • How often should you start a car in the winter?
  • What should I keep in my car for winter?

Your Answers…

How often should you start a car in the winter?

If temperatures are at or below zero degrees celsius, you should aim to start your car daily, or disconnect your battery to ensure a working battery in the morning.

At zero degrees celsius, your car battery’s strength drops around 35%.  Your battery recharges itself while your car is running, so starting your vehicle daily will help to ensure that the battery will not die.  You do not necessarily have to drive your car if you don’t need to!  Simply running the engine for a few minutes will allow your battery to gain some charge and keep running without problem.

It should be noted, however, that old or weak batteries may not gain a full charge from restarting.  This is tricky, because in mild weather a weak battery can operate perfectly, but when the temperature drops the cold air can drain the life from it.  

The best way overall to protect your battery is to disconnect it completely.  With a single crescent wrench, you can disconnect your battery cable from the post so no electricity is consuming the battery’s power.  This comes with its own risks, though, as this disables any operations that are powered by the battery, most notably the anti-theft devices in place.  

 

What should I check on my car before winter?

The RAC has coined a useful acronym for what to check on your car before or during winter: FORCES.

Fuel

Oil

Rubber

Coolant

Electrics 

Screenwash

Fuel

It seems silly to say, but you must ensure you have enough fuel before you start your journey.  Wintery conditions cause traffic, and traffic uses a lot more fuel than simply driving from A to B.  Stock up and stay safe.

Oil

Check your oil level using a dipstick and top up if necessary.  Take care not to overfill, because this will cause more problems!  You can locate the oil in your engine by finding the cap with the little oil can symbol.  

Rubber

Take the time to check the tread on your tires and to see if you need to replace your windscreen wipers.  

Tyres start with a tread depth of 8-9mm, and you can legally drive on them until they reach a depth of 1.6mm.  The deeper the tread, the safer you will be in icy conditions.  You should also check the air pressure in the tires and fill tires according to the car manual’s specifications.  

Windscreen wipers should be replaced once every 12 months.  First, test them by spraying your windscreen and using them, then run your fingers along the length of the wipers to see if there is any damage.  If they are torn or damaged, or if they simply are not doing their job the same way, get them replaced!

Coolant

Check your coolant is still between the min and max lines when your engine is fully turned off and cooled down.  This is so your car is able to regulate its own temperature so you can continue to drive safely. 

Electrics

As well as maintaining your battery charge, ensure all lights and indicators are working properly.  In the UK, it gets dark before 4pm in the winter.  This means that for a large part of the day we are in total darkness, so it is imperative that your lights are working.  Replace bulbs and fuses as needed!  

Screen Wash

Aim to fill your car with screen wash that is winter-proof.  If you normally fill your windscreen wipers with water, this can easily freeze over and prevent you from washing your windscreen.  This is particularly dangerous in winter, when grit from the roads as well as rain, snow, and spray from other cars is hitting you and blocking your view.  Make sure you’re filling your car with screen wash that is resistant to freezing, or that freezes only below minus fifteen degrees.

 

What should I keep in my car for winter?

The AA has released a list of all the most important items to keep in your car for winter.  

  • Ice scraper
  • De-icer
  • Torch and spare batteries
  • Fully charged mobile phone 
  • Fully charged portable charger or charging cable
  • Sat-nav or printed route
  • Road atlas
  • Sunglasses
  • First aid kit
  • Empty fuel can

 

An ice scraper and de-icer is essential for winter days.  You can face a fine if your windscreen is not properly de-iced before you start your journey, so you need to take care to do a thorough job.

A torch is useful in many situations.  It is likely you’ll be driving in the dark around the winter months, and a torch can help you avoid injury when exiting your car.  In the event of a breakdown, a torch will help you to find a safe place to wait for assistance.

Of course, a mobile phone and relevant charging apparatus is essential nowadays.  You can call for roadside assistance should you need it in the winter months.

A sat-nav, printed route, and road atlas will help you to avoid getting lost, especially when driving in the dark.  They will also point out your nearest petrol stations and rest areas along your journey so you can drive as safely and as informed as possible.

It seems strange to list sunglasses as a winter necessity, but the glare from the low sun causes many road accidents.  Use sunglasses to reduce the effect of sun glare, as well as the bright sunlight reflecting off any snow.

First aid kits are extremely useful when accidents occur.  Having a first aid kit in your car can mean that you’re able to patch up any injuries without needing to detour or cut your journey short.

A huge amount of breakdowns are caused by a simple empty petrol tank.  Keep an empty fuel can in your car so you’re able to fill your car if an empty tank should take you by surprise.

 

How do I take care of my car in winter?

Simply by doing all of the above!

Look after your battery by either disconnecting it or starting your car daily to recharge it.  

Use FORCES to check your fuel, oil, coolant, rubber, electrics, and screen wash to ensure your car is running smoothly and nothing in the engine is freezing in the cold winter nights.

Follow the AA’s guide to a winter car care kit and keep everything in a basket in your boot or backseat so you can grab what you need easily.  

Overall, you just need to ensure you’re thinking ahead and considering anything that could go wrong on your journey, so you can prepare to rectify any situations that may arise.  Chances are your journey will be completely fine and you will not run into any problems, but in winter it’s better to be as safe as possible.  

Drive carefully, be safe, and enjoy your journey!

 

Winter Car Care: What You Need To Know

Snow and ice often fill car owners with dread.

Winter can be hard on your vehicle and will cause additional wear and tear. It’s definitely the time of year you want to ensure that you don’t break down.

Survival of the coldest months can be easy if you complete a few simple vehicle maintenance checks. This article will tell you everything you need to know about winter car care, so you are prepared for the cold weather.

 

What Vehicle Maintenance Is Needed?

If you want to be sure that your car continues to work properly at its maximum performance potential, then you need to carry out regular checks. This will enable you to pick up any problems early, so your car never lets you down.

Essential vehicle maintenance checks include:

  • Tire pressure and quality check
  • All lights in full working order
  • Check oil and oil filter
  • Check coolant
  • Check air filter

Make sure that you keep a record of all regular services. This will help you fetch a better price for your car if you decide to sell.

 

 

How Do Cold Temperatures Affect Your Car?

Just like our own health, the winter weather can put a serious strain on the condition of our cars. There is a reason why most breakdowns happen during the colder months.

Several changes happen to your car during the colder weather:

  • Fluids can thicken as the temperature drops, which causes them to move more slowly through the engine, causing damage and decreased performance.
  • Increased wear and tear on your battery.
  • Decreased performance in cold weather. This also means that you use more fuel.
  • Damage to your windscreen as a result of a change of temperature can cause the glass to crack. If you have any chips in your windscreen, water can freeze inside them and cause the whole screen to crack.

 

 

Does winter weather damage your car?

Cold winters, along with ice and snow, can damage every part of your car if left unchecked.

The dark side of road salt

Road salt combined with dirt and mud is the biggest culprit for causing corrosion. If not cleaned off, it can corrode many different parts of your car, particularly underneath and around the wheels.

All salt and dirt also need to be washed off the paintwork before using any cleaning cloths or sponges, as salt can cause nasty scratches.

Stop those wiper blades from freezing

It is worth changing your wiper blades before going on any winter driving trips so you can make sure they are working well and will clear all dirt and mud off your windscreen.

On cold nights you should lift the wiper blades off the windscreen to stop them from sticking if it freezes. This will help keep your blades working well for longer.

Never use your wiper blades to clear ice or snow off your windscreen. This is the quickest way to break them. The safest way to clear away any ice is with an ice-scraper.

 

The Most Important Winter Car Care Tips:

If you prepare in advance for winter car journeys, you are less likely to break down.

You should also take some emergency essentials such as extra clothes, food, and medications if going out in bad weather in case you break down and get stranded somewhere.

Our top winter car care tips are:

  • Change your wiper blades.
  • Check your tires and change to snow tires if needed.
  • Check your battery performance.
  • Keep your car filled up with fuel.
  • Check your car’s fluid levels.
  • Change the oil.
  • Check your lights are working.

 

 

Make sure to check your owner’s manual

Every make and model of vehicle is different. Make sure that you check your owner’s manual before carrying out any checks or replacements. This will ensure that you buy the right parts for your car.

If you have a warning light appear on your dashboard, your vehicle guide is the place to go to find out what is wrong.

 

Have you checked your tires?

The cold can cause your tire pressures to drop resulting in increased wear to the tread. This can affect their overall performance and traction and put you in danger if left unchecked.

If you live in an area that has a lot of snow, we would recommend using winter tires to give you improved traction and grip.

However, in a warmer climate, winter tires are not always needed. Instead, high-quality all-season tires should be sufficient.

You should check your tire pressures every week regardless of which tires you choose to use. Cold temperatures can decrease the pressure of your tires. If you drive on underinflated tires, you will increase the wear on each tire and cause costly damage.

 

 

Changed your battery?

This is one of our most important winter car care tips because, without a functioning battery, your vehicle won’t start.

Winter driving is hard on every battery, especially older ones. Trying to start your car when it is cold takes more life from the battery, so if it is not working to full capacity, you might have a breakdown on your hands.

To ensure that your car starts no matter how bad the weather is, you should get the battery checked before the cold months. If there are any problems detected or you have had your battery longer than 3 years, it might be time to replace it.

Signs that your car battery might let you down:

  • Slow and sluggish when starting.
  • The battery is older than 3 years.
  • You hear a clicking noise when the ignition is turned on.
  • Dim headlights when first turned on.

 

Monitored fluid levels?

Several different fluids are required for your car to run correctly.  You must check each one before the winter months to avoid any unnecessary breakdowns.

You will frequently need your windshield wipers and washer fluid during winter road trips to clear away dirt and grit, so the washer levels will need to be topped-up.

During winter, you will also want to add an antifreeze agent to your windshield washer to stop the fluid from freezing and causing damage to the washer system.

It is also important to check coolant levels and to make sure you are using a 50:50 mix of antifreeze and water. This will stop the coolant from freezing and potentially causing devastating damage to the engine block.

Always keep your gas tank topped up over winter. You never know when you will get stuck in the snow and ice, and you might be glad of the extra fuel to get your home.

Keeping your gas tank full may also prevent water from getting into the fuel pump and freezing.

 

 

Replaced your oil?

At the start of winter, you always want to make sure that you have changed the oil.

Winter temperatures can cause the oil to thicken, which will damage your vehicle’s engine if left.

When changing your oil check the owner’s manual for the correct information on which type you should use. However, make sure that the type you choose has a ‘W’ viscosity.

Then you can be sure that it is suitable for use all year round, including winter.

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Below, we’ve answered a few of the questions we get asked most often:

 

Should I wash my car during winter?

It is important to look after your car’s bodywork over the winter months.

Vehicles are susceptible to the effects of salt and dirt, with extended exposure contributing to rusting and corrosion, even for modern cars.

Before the cold months arrive, you need to apply a wax barrier to your paintwork after your car has been thoroughly washed. This will offer all paintwork protection against salt and dirt for around 6 months.

Throughout winter you also want to try and wash the paintwork every 2 weeks.

In addition, you should wash around the wheels and undercarriage after any muddy trips out. You can use a hose or pressure washer to get this done quickly.

Washing tips:

  • Use warm water instead of hot to prevent any large temperature changes from breaking any glass.
  • Dry your car after washing to try to prevent any doors or windows from freezing.

For ease, you could use a professional vehicle washing company. Just check that they also clean the undercarriage to ensure a complete job is carried out.

 

How do people survive in the car in the winter?

The most important information that we can give you is to make sure that your car is ready for winter. The last thing you want is to be stranded in your broken down vehicle in the middle of a storm.

Always carry emergency supplies with you on every winter trip:

  • Medications
  • Clothes
  • Food
  • First aid kit
  • Torch
  • Phone and charger
  • Jump cables
  • Blankets
  • Ice scraper
  • Shovel

If the weather is forecast to be bad, it is safer to stay at home and reschedule your trip during the warmer temperatures.

 

What’s included in a winter car service?

The winter service is the perfect maintenance check for getting your car ready for the cold.

Most winter services will include:

  • Tire check and change to snow tires if needed.
  • Battery assessment.
  • Fluid top-ups with antifreeze.
  • Check and change wipers.
  • Light check.
  • Oil replacement.
  • Windshield check for chips and cracks.

 

If you follow this information and ensure that your vehicle is in the best condition before the cold winters begin, you are less likely to break down or have any accidents during winter driving trips.

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