Caring for your car in winter

Some of us love it and some of us hate it - the winter months create a divide every year, but there is one thing that we know for sure, the cold is not your car’s best friend.

Your car is one of the many things that require some preparation before the frosty, colder months kick in and our guide should help you navigate your way around these important points in no time.

1. Windscreen

Frosty mornings and freezing temperatures can cause havoc for your windscreen, leaving you rushed for time on those early morning journeys. Preparing in advance can really help in these situations. There are plenty of quick hacks to make your windscreen clear quicker, but trust us when we say using your credit card isn’t a good idea! Pop the engine on to warm it up from the inside and use a concentrated de-icing spray and scraper, this way you won’t be causing any lasting damage to your car. It’s worth having a spare bottle or two in your boot too for those unexpected freezes.

Making sure you have a working pair of wipers is crucial for those heavy downpours and in winter concentrated windscreen wash is a must. We spoke to Adam Tudor-Lane from Carwitter and he explained why:

During winter you want to make sure you're using a concentrated screen wash, one that can go down to well below the minus numbers. Don't water it down, use it neat. It's important to make sure your screen wash doesn't freeze as it can blow fuses, or even break your washer pump entirely if you use only use water. In fact, always buy concentrated screen wash. You get more value for money, and you can water it down when summer time comes. Oh, and it’s worth decanting some into a smaller bottle to keep in your boot as it’s an offence to drive without any washer fluid, and you could receive a hefty fine”.

2. Cleaning Your Car

Make sure all of your vehicle's lights are clear of the dirt and grime that quickly gathers from winter roads. Seeing clearly in the dark with your headlights, or being able to be seen by another driver, will be much reduced by dirty lights.” Says Andrew from UK Motor Talk.

Making sure that all aspects of your car are clean before heading out in winter is extremely important. Dirty tyres can increase your stopping distance drastically, so making sure these are clean at all times will be of great benefit. Clearing your lights and number plates is also crucial. It is illegal to not have a number plate visible, so make sure this is readable at all times, same goes for your lights, you’ll want to make sure they’re sparkling clean to increase your visibility in poor conditions.

As well as keeping your car clean for safety purposes, there are other benefits too. Lancashire Post released an article stating: “Taking the time to comprehensively clean down your car, rinsing off harmful chemicals left on the roads by gritters and other cars can extend the life of your car’s bodywork.”

3. Emergency Items

Roads and vehicles are unpredictable and can cause havoc at any given moment. Traffic jams, broken down cars and delays are all possibilities, and can sometimes mean you’ll be in or near your car for a long period of time. Being prepared for inconveniences like this by keeping essentials in your car will make the process not only more comfortable but a whole lot easier. 

Items you should keep in your car for emergencies:

  • Spare coolant, oil and windscreen wash
  • Torch
  • Jump leads
  • Charged mobile phone
  • Water and energy bars
  • Ice scraper
  • Warm and waterproof clothing
  • First aid kit
  • Map
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Copy of breakdown cover policy

As Benjamin Franklin once said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail!”

4. Tyres

Steph Savill Foxy Lady Drivers club spoke to us about her tips for your tyres during the winter months: “Did you know there are 6,000 more car accidents when winter temperatures drop due to tyre shortcomings and increased stopping distances? In these circumstances, a driver is responsible if the condition of their car tyres was the catalyst. Because of this, I recommend that people check their tyre condition, pressure and tread every month, asking a good local garage for advice or to top up their tyre pressures if need be. During a long cold winter spell, for example, when temperatures are regularly below 7°C, you'll notice a significant improvement in your car's braking performance after fitting winter tyres. But if it isn't that cold, all-season tyres provide better cornering and grip than summer ones, reducing the scare of aquaplaning in heavy rain."

Potentially one of the most important and obvious tasks when it comes to preparing your car for the colder months, your tyres need to be in tip-top condition. Checking the level of your treads every week is key for keeping your tyres’ performance to the max, as stopping times and grip can be reduced massively when your tyre treads get low. This also applies to your tyre pressure, every time you’re putting fuel in your car, it’s worth checking the pressure. If you’re unsure of what your car tyre pressure should be, Kwik Fit allows you to search by number plate online to see what yours should be. It may also be worth considering changing your tyres with the weather. Some people opt to have their tyres changed to winter tyres that allow extra grip and are suited to the slippery and wet weather.

Geoff Maxted at DriveWrite Automotive also suggests the same: “In my view, the single biggest factor involved in winter car care is tyre condition. This, after all, is the part of the car that is in contact with the road which is why I recommend fitting winter tyres. Although not unreasonably considered an additional expense, the benefits of winter tyres have been recognised for years. In the UK we might not encounter the weather extremes of other European countries, but we still get our fair share of rain, ice and snow. As a motoring writer I’m a big fan of Ford vehicles and when preparing for winter with anti-freeze, lubricants and the like, I believe it pays to start them from the ground up.”

5. Servicing and Maintenance 

Something that a lot of us tend not to bother with, but is critical for maintaining your car’s health and enabling it to perform to its best in the colder months, servicing your car regularly is something we should all consider doing more often. Bringing your car into your local Ford dealership and getting them to run it through a service to check all the major elements can be a great idea.

Finally, if you see a noticeable change or a light appears on your dashboard, make sure you get it checked out straight away. Also, keep your car’s fuel above the halfway line where possible. The extra fuel will allow for an easier start on those cold mornings and ensure that if you become delayed, you won’t break down in the cold weather.