While it would not exactly be revelatory of us to suggest that Decembers can bring a spot of rain, snow, ice, and other wintry conditions in the UK, when that situation came to pass in the last weeks of 2022, it still caused considerable travel disruption up and down the country.
What should that tell you? Well, it should certainly indicate that you can never be too complacent when it comes to getting your vehicle prepared for tricky conditions.
The good news is that getting your car ready to drive in the snow and ice isn’t necessarily as arduous and time-consuming an undertaking as you might imagine.
And while the below tips are not a complete top-to-bottom summary of what you might do to prepare your vehicle for the ice, hail, and sleet, they should provide a sound foundation to help keep your car in shape and you and your passengers safe.
Get your car serviced ahead of the winter
If you are reading this at some point during the early months of 2023, it is obviously a little late to arrange a service for before the current winter, although it is certainly something that you should bear in mind for the winter of 2023 to 2024.
The question of when a car is due a service isn’t necessarily a simple one; some motorists follow a broad rule of having their vehicle serviced every 12,000 miles or every 12 months, whichever comes first, while others simply arrange a service for the same time as their MOT. Indeed, our own Laindon MOT centre at Advanced Service Centre could help you with that.
Shortly before the winter, though, can be an excellent time to arrange for your car to be serviced. Colder conditions can heighten the chances of various elements of your car malfunctioning or breaking, and by getting a service done before the winter, you can help ensure any emerging issues are spotted before they have the chance to deteriorate.
Check your vehicle’s battery
This is one of the aspects of your car that you should be most vigilant about during the colder, wetter, and icier time of year. The drop in temperatures will make it more difficult for an engine to turn over, and will negatively impact the power output of the typical battery.
With car batteries normally having an effective working life of around five years, batteries that haven’t been replaced for near this period of time could be particularly vulnerable in freezing temperatures.
Don’t forget, too, that you will be using your car’s lights and heating much more during the winter than in the spring and summer, which will further heighten the strain the battery is under.
So, if you’re struggling to get your car started on an icy morning, this could be a sure sign that the battery needs to be looked at, and potentially replaced.
For comprehensive car battery services that ensure your vehicle stays roadworthy, Advanced Service Centre in Essex is your go-to solution.
Take a look at your car’s tyre tread depth and tyre pressures
Given that it is your vehicle’s tyres that provide the direct contact between your car and the road, it couldn’t be more important to make sure they are in decent shape for icier and slipperier conditions.
Not everyone goes as far as buying specialist winter tyres when the weather turns cold and wet. But if you do drive in such conditions frequently, these tyres can be an excellent investment, courtesy of the remarkable grip they provide in Monte Carlo Rally-esque slush.
If you decide to stick with your standard car tyres during the winter, you should certainly be checking their tread depth. The legally required minimum for cars in the UK and Europe is 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tyre, although with winter conditions being as tricky as they are for driving, you will want to have a more generous tyre tread depth than just the ‘minimum’.
As for the tyre pressures, those, too, should be checked regularly during the winter. According to Continental Tyres, tyre pressure typically falls by 0.07 to 0.14 bars, or 1 to 2 pounds per square inch (PSI), for each 10 degrees C drop in temperature. The company recommends that you check your vehicle’s tyre pressures every two weeks.
Put together an emergency kit to keep in the car
As vital as it is to be prepared for all eventualities in the winter, wouldn’t it be a slightly extreme move to assemble an ‘emergency kit’ when you don’t travel much further than a few miles to the office or supermarket a few times a week?
You might imagine so – but regardless of how much winter driving you do, you will be thankful for such a ‘kit’ if you ever do break down amid snowy and icy conditions.
A great such ‘kit’ typically comprises both “obvious” and easily overlooked items ranging from a mobile phone and charger, hazard warning triangle and hi-visibility vest, to de-icer and a scraper, Wellington boots, a shovel, a tow rope, and a first-aid kit. Don’t forget the likes of a torch, warm clothes, and food and drink, too.
Get all the above elements right, and you will be in a much stronger position to take on the challenge of icy roads, whether you expect to drive near or far this winter.