Have your car checked out / serviced
Winter is a punishing time of year for any vehicle - and your car is no exception. It’s true to say that prevention is better than cure when it comes to your car during the coldest time of the year – so it’s a good idea to have your car checked out so that issues that might leave you stranded at the side of a very cold road are found and addressed before winter sets in with a vengeance.
Some things that should be checked coming into the winter months:
Always the most important system in your car. Have them checked to ensure they’re working properly.
Your tyres / tyre tread
The legal minimum for tyre treads in Ireland is 1.6mm. You can gauge this yourself by examining your tyres. Tyre tread gauges can be purchased cheaply (for between the 10 to 15 euro mark) and really every driver should have one as they make checking your remaining tyre tread childs play.
Remember though - often in winter we’re driving on icy, snowy roads. Is having the absolute minimum legal tread on your tyres the best thing for you and your family when driving in such conditions?
If you’re in any doubt about your tyres have them checked as they could – especially in winter - save your life.
Check your tyre pressure
During winter, you should check your tyre pressure on a weekly basis.
Consider Winter Tyres or Snow Socks
If you’re living in an area that typically gets heavier / colder winters you should consider investing in winter tyres or snow socks.
Winter tyres prevent accidents and give much better grip on the road in icy / snowy conditions. Many manufacturers suggest that winter tyres will perform better than conventional tyres once the temperature drops below 7 degrees Celsius, and that even at low speeds of around 30mph you’re stopping distance is reduced by about 22%.
Snow socks are typically much cheaper and can be a very good alternative to winter tyres. There are some drawbacks in that your maximum speed should not exceed 30mph and they will be damaged by driving at higher speeds on tarmac roads. That said, you should not be driving at high speeds on icy or snowy roads in the first place. They are also much easier to fit and remove.
Your battery / charging system
Winter is very hard on batteries as cold engines can need much more power to start. Older batteries will suffer more during the winter months.
You coolant(s) should be checked annually and completely cleaned out with fluids replaced at least every two years.
Your exhaust system should be thoroughly checked to ensure that there are no leaks. Remember, when it's cold your windows will be completely closed to retain heat so exhaust leaks can be very dangerous.
Car headlights and bulbs
Ensure that your headlights are aligned properly and that all your fog lights / high beams / warning lights / indicators etc are functioning properly.
Car Heating systems / Wipers
Ensure that your car heater is working properly, both from a comfort and safety perspective. Defrosters / window de-misters are essential to safe driving in the winter. Also check your wiper blades to ensure that they don’t need replacing and remember – always check that your wipers aren’t frozen to the winscreen before turning them on as this can damage their motors.
Some good practice in winter
- Ensure that your spare wheel is in good working order and check its pressure
- Ensure that you have the necessary equipment to change the wheel (Jack, wheel brace etc)
- Carry a shovel, tow rope, blanket, water bottle in the boot
- Carry an approved fuel container and see that it’s full of petrol / diesel in case you run out
- If you’re in a particularly harsh area consider carrying a Car Jump Starter / Battery Pack
- Don’t forget the small things – carry a spare mobile phone battery / charger pack. The last thing you want if you’re stuck in the depths of winter with a broken down car in a remote area is to find that your phone is dead too.