With temperatures plummeting and winter just around the corner, now’s the time to ensure your vehicle is prepared for journeys during the cold season.
If you haven’t got the best memory simply use the acronym FORCES for the regular ‘DIY checks’ you should carry out through the winter and especially when we’re heading into another icy blast.
That’s Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics, Screen wash.
Check you have plenty of fuel in your tank for your journey.
It may sound obvious but you would be surprised how many people run out of fuel and with temperatures as low as expected you really don’t want get stranded.
RAC patrols check the engine oil level on every vehicle they attend and surprisingly they find one in three are dangerously low on oil. This can cause a breakdown or lead to catastrophic engine damage at worst.
You should check your oil level is between the minimum and maximum mark on your car’s dipstick and top up if necessary.
You’ll need to check your tyres and your wiper blades before you set off.
Check your tyres for general wear and tear racks, splits of bulges, and more importantly, tread depth.
Although the minimum tread level is 1.6mm, during winter it’s advisable to have 3mm of tread on your tyres to help with traction and grip.
Also ensure that you have the correct pressure in your tyres – check your owner’s handbook for the correct inflation levels.
Your tyres are your car’s only connection to the road and it is vital that they are in good condition and correctly inflated for good traction and grip.
Next check your wiper blades. They are not everlasting and will need replacing from time-to-time, so check them for splits and cracks.
Check whether they are effective at clearing your screen and replace as necessary.
Wiper blades can get frozen to the windscreen in freezing conditions and when there is snow. In colder winters, breakdown patrols see a big increase in callouts to members’ cars which have blown a fuse or broken the motor/mechanics when operating the wipers when they are frozen to the screen.
So clear your windscreen and ensure that they will lift off the screen before switching them on. Use de-icer (never hot water) to free them if necessary.
Cover your windscreen with a blanket or an old sheet to keep it ice and snow free and wrap the wipers up in the sheet to avoid them sticking to the screen.
Check your engine coolant level. The last thing you need is a frozen engine or for your car to overheat.
Although it’s a sealed system and shouldn’t need to be topped up, you should always double check, especially before a long journey.
Check your coolant levels when the engine is cold and look in your handbook for the correct coolant and mix to use should you need to top it up.
Check your lights – they are essential for you to see and be seen.
It’s vitally important to make sure not only that you can see where you’re going but also that other drivers can see you. Walk around your car and make sure all lights are working and that they are free from dirt, grime and snow.
Lights get extremely dirty during the winter months so clean them on a regular basis.
With a cold engine, check the battery terminals under the bonnet are clean and tight.
If your car struggles to start and the engine ‘labours’ when you turn the key you should get it checked by a garage. If your battery is over four years old it may be getting to the end of its life and it could let you down.
If you are having your battery tested, ask a garage to check the charging system and the drain on your battery – this will give a better picture of your car’s overall electrical health.
RAC patrols deal with over 400,000 battery related faults every winter as the cold weather takes its toll on older tired batteries and the wet and ice conditions play havoc with the electrics. Batteries have to work that much harder in cold conditions and they have endure greater demand from extra electrical equipment like the lights and the heater.
6. Screen wash
Check your screen wash level and top up with a quality screen wash additive or pre-mix which is effective down to at least -15 degrees celsius.
There’s more muck and dirt on the roads during the winter, as well as salt, so it’s important to make sure you can keep your windscreen clean. And remember to keep checking and topping up the level as you use the screenwash up.
In colder conditions, RAC patrols are called out to motorists whose screen wash has completely frozen in the tank – so it is vital that you remember to use a quality additive that protects down to very low temperatures.