10 Easy Steps To Prepare Your Car For Winter

Preparing your car for winter but don’t know where to start? Use these 10 easy steps including our Winter Survival Kit to stay safe this winter.

Jan 24, 2020

10 Easy Steps To Prepare Your Car For Winter

Don’t take any chances this winter, use these key winter driving tips and vehicle maintenance checks recommended by our experts, many of which you can do at home in minutes!

1. Inspect your wipers and windscreen

We don’t thank our windscreen wipers enough, but could you imagine facing a rainstorm without them? Avoid finding out and make sure they’re in full working order before you set off anywhere.

Due to heavier rain, frost and (fingers crossed) snow, your windscreen wipers are set to be challenged more than they would be in warmer months. The harsher weather conditions may affect your visibility on the road, so it’s wise to check your wipers for defects that could worsen beforehand.

Check the wipers for drag when in motion. The most obvious signs are streaks on the windscreen, a bouncing motion or a high pitched screeching noise. If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to buy some replacement wiper blades - not doing so could result in compromised visibility.

car windscreen wipers being checked over

It’s also worth investing in some windscreen washer fluid which is made up of quality additives that reduce the chances of freezing, saving you valuable time in the morning. If you aren’t able to get a hold of some and expect freezing temperatures overnight, a quick tip would be to pull the wiper arms up to stop them from freezing to the windscreen and to cover your windscreen with a blanket or towel. 

Finally, check your windscreen itself for cracks or dents – these may appear tiny to the eye but could cause leaks and result in bigger problems. Once your wipers and windscreen are in complete working condition, be sure to keep good quality de-icing equipment on board for those frostier mornings.

2. Check your ventilation system

Can't get rid of condensation inside your car? Chances are your ventilation's playing up. If the ventilation in your car is faulty or of poor quality, your car windows can quickly steam up leaving you with compromised or no visibility. Luckily, a quick assessment of your car's airflow could be the first step on how to stop condensation in your car.

Poor ventilation can make driving conditions uncomfortable due to poor airflow within the cabin. If you notice that your windows become hard to de-mist even with the air-conditioning on full blast, it may be that your current air-conditioning system needs a recharge.

You can do this yourself but if you don't feel comfortable doing so, we advise that you take your car to your local garage. If the problem persists and misty windows begin to haunt you, we recommend investing in a new air-conditioning system.

close up of car air ventilation system

3. Inspect your brakes and brake parts

Good brakes are essential whatever the weather. But when harsher winter months arise and you are driving on ice or driving in snow, it's more important than ever that your brakes and their related components are in good working condition.  

When the road is coated with ice or rain your brakes have to work harder in order to stop your car in time. The overall stopping distance is doubled for wet roads and is multiplied by 10 when roads are icy or snowy, so any weaknesses could be extremely dangerous to you and others around you.

car brake system with brake disc

Firstly, check and change your car’s brake fluid if necessary. Never drive when your brake fluid is below the minimum level indicator point, it simply isn't worth the risk. Next, you'll want to check the brake discs and pads for wear and tear. Again, you can replace your brake discs and pads yourself at home if they look out-of-shape, but if you don't feel experienced enough, please visit your local service garage to make sure they are fitted properly.

 4. Examine your tyres

Your car tyres have a lot to deal with in winter - slippery roads, sticky leaves and black ice to name a few things. Factors such as these can threaten your handling and control, especially if your tyre tread has worn out, so it’s essential that you check them at this time of year. The minimum required tyre tread depth is 1.6mm, but we wouldn't recommend anything less than 3mm in the summer and 4mm in winter.

A good trick to check whether your tyre tread is acceptable and safe is to perform something we call The 20p Test. Simply take a 20 pence coin and place it between the tread marks in your tyre. You should not be able to see the border (shown in orange below) of the 20 pence coin, if you do, your tread is too low and provides inadequate gripping. In other words, it's time to replace them.

good tread vs bad tread on car tyres

If you're local to the area, we can help you with this. Make your way down to one of our manufacturer-approved Service centres and our experts will be able to advise you on which tyres work best for your vehicle. We'll perform a thorough tyre replacement service and have you back on the road safely in no time. 

If you want to maximise your grip even further and know that you'll be driving in snow or driving in icy conditions often, why not opt for snow chains? These are a quick and easy way to give your tyres more grip and could be a cheaper option if you're on a bit of a budget. Use our simple tutorial below to fit them yourself in the comfort of your own home.

5. Test your lights

As the days get shorter and afternoons become darker more quickly in the winter, you'll need to use your car lights a lot more often. To avoid getting caught out in the dark, you should check all of your lights (headlights, taillights and indicator lights) are all in full working order. When it’s darker outside you can’t afford for other drivers to misinterpret your signals due to a failed bulb.

We're also bound to wake up to fog in the winter, so take a quick look to be sure your fog lights are in full working order or driving could become dangerous very quickly. 

car driving in the dark with full beam lights on

If you're not sure how to test them, get a friend to help check your car lights while the engine is running. If you find yourself with any flickering or faulty lights, we urge you to get them replaced right away as they could distract or misinform other users on the road. Often these replacements can be carried out without any need of a technical expert, but there's no harm in heading down to your local service garage if you feel you'd benefit from professional help.

Make a habit of cleaning your exterior lights as salt and dirt on the roads can cause grime build-up and reduce the brightness of your lights significantly. We'd also recommend carrying extra light bulbs in your car at all times - better to be safe than sorry!

6. Check your car battery

Your car battery can be put under a lot of pressure in the winter. Not only does it power your engine, but it powers your heating, de-mister, lights and everything else electrical in your car, so it's extremely important for it to be in working order. If your car is having trouble starting, this may indicate an issue.

We'd advise carrying jump leads with you in case your battery goes flat mid-journey.

car battery jumper start cables

7. Opt for rubber car mats

There's nothing worse than tracking mud, dirt and snow into your car's interior, but it's sometimes inevitable when you're driving in snow and wet conditions. An easy way of getting around this is by investing in some rubber floor mats. Rubber car mats act as great protective layers to your interior and are hard-wearing so you won't need to replace them often. 

Unlike carpet floor mats, rubber car mats are designed to endure tougher conditions and are a breeze to clean. Read our short Car Mat Guide for more info on which car mats are best for you!

rubber car mats

8. Keep a Winter Car Kit 

We've created the ultimate Winter Car Survival Kit to prepare you for all possible situations you could face this winter. You may already have these items lying around your garage or home, if not, they're super easy to get a hold of and will prove extremely useful in a breakdown or emergency.

Sandicliffe Winter Car Survival Kit

  1. Mobile Phone Charger
  2. De-icer & Scraper
  3. Snow Shovel & Brush
  4. Hi-visibility Vest
  5. Torch
  6. Tow Rope
  7. Jump Leads
  8. Hazard Warning Triangle
  9. Wellington Boots/Hiking Boots
  10. Blankets & Spare Clothes
  11. Emergency Food & Drink
  12. Spare Fuel
  13. Spare Tyre
  14. First Aid Kit

9. Are you covered?

It slips our minds from time to time but it's something we hammer home during winter in particular and that is - breakdown cover. Always keep your breakdown service provider's number with you at all times in your car.

Did you know all of our Used Car customers receive 12 months of free AA Roadside Assistance? If you've bought a car from Sandicliffe Used Cars recently, all you need to do is register your vehicle with AA's free breakdown cover service today and drive confidently knowing you are backed by the UK's largest breakdown service provider!

aa roadside assistance helping car broken down in snow

10. Get a professional Winter Car Check

If you don't have the time or simply would prefer your car to be professionally audited, why not opt for a Winter Car Check? Many dealers offer these in exchange for a small fee, and if you're due a service anyway, it makes sense!

Here at Sandicliffe, we provide comprehensive Winter Checks to prepare cars for less forgiving weather. Get yours from just £19.99, plus a free Winter Kit including a de-icer, scraper, torch, de-mister pad, and windscreen wash gets thrown in for free! 

Call 0115 671 87 81 to enquire now.

professional winter car check done by sandicliffe specialist technician

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