It’s safe to say that it feels like winter is well and truly on its way. The clocks have changed, the weather is getting wetter and colder and the roads are getting grittier. It’s a perfect cocktail of car-eating conditions, which is why now is the perfect time to give your pride and joy a much-earned pre-winter check over. Though winter is still technically some way off, now is a great time to get your car ready.
Thankfully, checking over a car is easy enough. These pre-emptive checks can make a real difference when it comes to the longevity of your car, and they can help make it safer too. Let’s take a look at what you need to do.
Under the bonnet
Under the bonnet is a good place to start when it comes to vehicle checks.
First off, ensure that your washer fluid is topped up properly. It’s often located underneath the blue filler cap (and these usually have a washer logo embossed on them). You’ll be able to see if it requires more fluid, or there may even be a warning on your car’s display that the levels are low.
Make sure that you top it up with the right fluid and don’t be tempted to just use water – with temperatures falling, there’s the risk that the water could freeze. By using proper washer fluid, it reduces the likelihood of the liquid freezing and causing damage to the system.
While we’re here, check the oil too. Proper oil levels ensure that the engine is running smoothly and efficiently. Take out the dipstick, wipe it clean with a rag or paper towel, and return it to the engine. Bring it out once more, and read the levels – there should be a gauge on the stick itself. Then, either return the dipstick if the levels are correct, or top up the oil with an appropriate product – check your owners’ handbook for the right oil to use.
The windscreen is next. Give it a good once-over. Can you see any chips? If you can, then it might be worth checking if they need a repair by consulting a windscreen specialist. Often, smaller chips can be repaired with ‘spot repairs’ which work by injecting the chip with resin. It’s a good way of preventing any further damage.
Larger cracks usually mean that the screen will need to be replaced.
Wipers are essential at this time of year, particularly as the roads start to get grittier. In combination with the washers, the wipers are a frontline defence when driving on the roads in winter.
So give them a check over. Are they rubbing or squeaking in use, or do they appear cracked and dry under close inspection? If they are, then it’s a good idea to swap them out for new ones. This is usually a pretty simple task and can be done at home, though many retailers will be able to fit them for you should you rather.
As the main point of contact between car and road, tyres are a crucial part of a car’s operation. When the weather turns wetter tyres are even more important too, so now is the best time to give them a once-over.
Check the sidewalls for any cracks or dry patches, and ensure that there’s enough tread too. The UK legal limit for tread depth is 1.6mm, and you can check this by using a 20p piece; slot the coin into one of the grooves and, if the outer band is obscured, the tyres are legal. If it’s visible, then the tyres need changing.
Check the pressures, too. The correct pressures for your car can be found in the owners’ manual or behind the fuel filler cap. Find out the right pressure and adjust your tyres accordingly, using either a home compressor or one at a garage or fuel station.
During winter we’re all spending more time on the roads at night, which is why ensuring that your lights are working correctly is so essential. Try your headlamps and main beams when parked – drive close to a wall or reflective surface and you’ll be able to see. If a bulb is out, then it’s paramount that you get it replaced.
Then, check your rear lights and brake lights. You can do this either by asking a friend to look while you use the brake pedal, or reverse close to a shiny surface (a garage door is ideal) and try the brakes. Look in your rear-view mirror and you should be able to see if they’re working correctly. Do the same for your reversing light, too.
This is also a good time to try your indicators and hazards too.