With frost now starting to creep across the UK, drivers should be taking steps to ensure their vehicles are safe, roadworthy and winter ready. Trust My Garage has some top tips for looking after your motor in the winter weather – read on to find out what you can do to keep rolling through the chilly season!
Do I need Antifreeze?
In short; yes! Antifreeze is clever stuff that stops the water in your engine’s cooling system from freezing! It also does several other important jobs, making it a vital car fluid to keep your engine running smoothly.
As well as preventing water from freezing, antifreeze raises the boiling point of engine coolant to prevent overheating. The stuff also protects your engine from internal corrosion, aids heat transfer, and prevents scale from building up internally.
How do you use it?
There’s the concentrated form, or the ready mixed with water kind. The latter version is commonly referred to as engine coolant and can normally be used straightaway for top-ups and replacements. The concentrated form needs to be diluted with water, usually at a level of around 50% antifreeze and 50% water. Always check the pack’s instructions for the right ratio to use, as well your vehicle’s Owner’s Manual to make sure you use the correct variety for your car, as recommended by the manufacturer.
Brakes are an essential part of any car and therefore should be regularly checked and well maintained. This is especially important during winter months, but how can you tell your brakes are in tip top condition?
It’s a case of making sure you have them checked regularly, as the winter months can be very wet and sometimes puddles can be difficult to avoid. When driving through a puddle, make sure you test your brakes afterwards by driving at a slow speed and gently applying pressure.
Listen out for warning signs, as brakes will let you know when there is a problem – whether this is through grinding or squeaking. Sometimes your car will act like it has a mind of its own and pull you to one side while driving, which could indicate a fault or imbalance with the braking system. Vibrations and temperamental pedals are also a sign you need to take give your car some attention – so look out for the signs and don’t ignore them.
Don’t ignore any warning lights that may appear on your dashboard! If you are unsure of their meaning either consult your Owner’s Manual or visit your local Trust My Garage member, who will be able to advise of any issues with your car.
Heading on a trip? Plan your route
The further the distance you’re travelling, the more chance there is for issues such as traffic to occur. We’re getting close to Christmas, which is a peak time for driving as many people visit their families over the festive period, so try and ensure you give yourself adequate travelling time.
Here are some of the routes identified by motoring organisations as traffic hotspots over Christmas:
- The M1, A1 and A1(M) northbound
- The M4 westbound to Wales and around Heathrow
- The M3, A303 and M5 heading to the West Country
- The M23 to Gatwick and the M11 to Stansted
- The M62 over the Pennines is often affected by snow, as is the A1079 between Hull and York
It’s also worth noting that many main roads and motorways will be gritted in the case of snow and ice, but this won’t necessarily happen in areas that don’t see as much traffic. It’s worth taking some extra time by using main roads to get to your destination instead of taking shortcuts that often require drivers to travel on country lanes, as these may be more dangerous in poor weather.
With the onset of dark evenings after the clock’s go back an hour it’s important to make sure all your lights are working properly. With poorer weather conditions it’s also wise to make sure your motor’s wiper blades are in good condition and your screen wash level is topped up with a good quality fluid – this will help prevent your washers from freezing in the lower temperatures.
Check your tyres
To learn all you need to know about ensuring your vehicle’s tyre are ready for the road, regardless of the time of year, read our “What to do when… you need to check your vehicle’s tyres” post. In winter, it can also be advisable to equip winter tyres to your vehicle – but how are they beneficial to you?
Winter tyres are designed to offer optimum traction and grip in cold conditions. They have a softer compound, along with deeper grooves and narrow cuts – called sipes – built into the tread. These features help disperse water and snow, and allow the rubber to move around, which improves contact with the road. You can identify a winter tyre by the snowflake symbol on the sidewall. Tyres without the snowflake symbol but marked ‘M+S’ (Mud and Snow) are not necessarily proper winter tyres.
Winter tyres work best at temperatures below 7°C. Indeed, they outperform conventional ‘summer’ tyres for traction, cornering grip and braking in such conditions – regardless of whether there is snow or ice.
Winter tyres aren’t mandatory in the UK. Only a small percentage of drivers choose to fit them, many of whom live in more remote areas – such as the Scottish Highlands – however, it’s a different story in much of mainland Europe. If you travel abroad with your car over the winter season, check the requirements and laws for each country you visit to avoid a fine.
The price of winter tyres varies widely, dependent on your car and wheel size. On average, they are slightly more expensive than an equivalent summer tyre in the UK.
However, while the cost of four winter tyres is significant, remember that your summer tyres will last longer as a result. Thus, while you may have a fairly high initial outlay, the longer-term cost of winter tyres is relatively low.
Before setting off on a journey, turn on your vehicle’s lights and either walk around the vehicle to conduct a check or ask a passenger to check all your lights are working correctly – be sure to press the brake too and check that all three lights are working.
If any lights are dim or aren’t working, including fog lights and number plate lights, you should get them replaced as soon as possible.
If you do suffer the unfortunate experience of a breakdown it’s important to keep some essentials in the car – a fully charged mobile phone, a torch, warm clothes, comfortable and waterproof shoes, hot drinks and snacks (Telegraph). That way, when you’re waiting for some roadside assistance or a recovery vehicle you can stay warm, full and safe while trying to stave off the boredom.
If you’re on the motorway in the event of your vehicle developing a problem, the Highway Code says to leave at the next exit or pull into a service area. If you can’t do so, you should pull onto the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as possible, with your vehicle’s wheels turned to the left.
Once you have safely pulled over, switched off the engine and removed the key from the vehicle, exit it as soon as possible. You should leave the vehicle by the passenger side doors if at all possible, so that you’re not at risk of oncoming traffic. Make sure all passengers do the same, and that they keep far away from the carriageway – be sure to stay behind the roadside barriers where possible.
Put the hazard lights on, and, if it’s dark, put your side lights on too. If it’s foggy, put the fog lights on if you can do so with the vehicle switched off. Generally, if you can’t see for more than 100 metres, the visibility is poor and that’s when your fog lights should be used.
Emergency snow kit
- Warning triangle – let other drivers know your situation to avoid stress and confusion
- Cat litter or sand – to put under the wheel to help traction in slippery conditions
- Snow shovel or spade
- Ice scraper
- Warm clothes and footwear
- Snacks and water
- Mobile phone
- Blanket or sleeping bag
- Jump leads
- High visibility jacket
- First aid kit
- Heat pad – If you are stranded in the snow and the exhaust pipe is covered, it can be dangerous to run the engine. These help you stay warm.
TMG member garages are located all over the UK, so no matter where you are, we’re here to help you. If you want to see where your nearest garage is, pop in your post code and take a look!
Remember, you’re never far from a Trust My Garage member who can help you out with any problems that you might experience on the road. All of our members are Trading Standards approved and are here to get you back on track quickly and safely.
What is Trust My Garage?
Trust My Garage is a collection of Britain’s best local garages – every one different and every one dedicated to the highest standards of skill and personal service. All the garages in Trust My Garage are members of the Independent Garage Association – which is part of the RMI, one of Britain’s oldest motor trade organisations. IGA members are true professionals who have to comply with a strict code of practice.
Each and every customer of all Trust My Garage members can rely on using a nationally recognised brand.
For more information about Trust My Garage or to locate your nearest TMG member visit www.trustmygarage.co.uk.
Winter is here! With a chill in the air and crunch of frost underfoot, there can be no doubting the harshest season of the year is upon us. When it comes to driving, Winter weather can lead to accidents and issues on the road, so here at Trust My Garage we’ve put together some advice for helping you to stay safe during the cold season.
Plan your travel
Before setting off, be sure to check ahead that your route is clear of accidents and other issues that can cause delays, and that the roads haven’t been shut due to poor conditions.
Check your tyres
If you have the opportunity and need, winter tyres could be a viable option for your vehicle. If you use your normal tyres, ensure they are inflated to the recommended pressure and have a minimum tread depth of 3mm across the width and circumference of the tyre in order to cope with the slippery and wet conditions.
Check for faults
If you notice a fault with your vehicle, such as a cracked windscreen, dim headlight, or poorly charged battery, it’s important to get it sorted before undertaking any winter driving. If you feel there is a fault but aren’t sure how to proceed, you can always take your vehicle to a local garage to have it looked at by a professional – you can even use the TMG Find a Garage map to locate your nearest Trust My Garage member.
Check the dashboard
If your car is displaying a warning light on the dashboard it’s important to get it checked – the systems are there to keep you safe! If your vehicle isn’t performing at its best it could lead to breakdowns or accidents, so be sure to keep it in the best possible condition. If you aren’t sure what the lights on your dashboard mean you can take a look at our Getting to know your vehicle’s dashboard blog post to give you a breakdown of what you need to know.
Even though most of us have the luxury of heating in our vehicles, if we break down or have an accident we can often be at the mercy of the Winter chill. By dressing warmly and layering up you can keep warm – and you could even save money on your fuel consumption!
Keep supplies in your car
In the case of a real emergency it’s important to keep supplies in your vehicle. Items such as a torch, blanket, biscuits, water, a hot drink, a hat, scarf and gloves, and a mobile phone charger or battery pack are always helpful to keep you safe and warm. You should also keep something to put under your tyres if you get stuck, and a shovel to clear any snow.
Control your speed
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) recommends:
“When driving in snow, get your speed right – not too fast so that you risk losing control, but not so slow that you risk losing momentum when you need it – and brake, steer and accelerate as smoothly as possible. Start gently in second gear, avoiding high revs. Stay in a higher gear for better control. Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble.”
Your stopping distances also increase tenfold on ice, so be sure to leave ample room between any surrounding vehicles to stay safe on the road.
Read road signs
While you may use familiar roads while driving, any changes to the surface or temporary problems should be highlighted by road signs – so keep an eye out for any updates. Signs will also post any road closures or other issues, so be sure to look around for any information possible.
If you’re driving on unfamiliar roads then it’s even more important to check road signs – nobody wants to get lost in the snow and ice! By employing careful, steady driving, you can give yourself enough time to read and process any information you need to know.
Know when not to drive
If conditions are too dangerous, the safest option is simply to not drive. Although it will delay you, it’s the safest option – and no drive is worth injury, no matter how small. It’s important to keep an eye on weather forecasts, so you don’t plan a journey when the weather is going to be particularly bad. Driving safe means that you can drive happy.
If you’re looking to embark on some winter travels, you can take your vehicle to your local Trust My Garage member. Whether it’s for a check-up, service or repair, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved code of conduct that our members use mean that you and you motor both get the best possible service – no matter the weather!
It’s that time of year again. The nights draw in earlier with each passing day, you wake up in darkness and going outside without your big coat is tantamount to ordering your own death wish. This is the time of year when you appreciate you car the most, because let’s face it, can you imagine having to queue up at a rainy bus stop on a bitterly cold morning? No, thought not.
Whilst your levels of affection towards your car may raise, they definitely don’t feel the same love from nature, with the cold weather finding various ways to inflict damage on them. Whilst we’re all aware that regular checks are vital, very few of us actually carry them out.
In fact, there are statistics to back that statement up. A Trust My Garage survey carried out earlier this year found that a whopping 84% of motorists neglect to carry out basic, regular checks on their vehicles.
Admittedly it’s tough; you’ve come back from a long hard day of work, it’s pitch black outside and all you want to do is sit in front of the TV and hibernate until the morning. However, by failing to carry out basic checks, like oil and engine coolant levels, you’re putting your car massively a risk, resulting in costly repairs or even the inconvenience of having no car at all, and that’ll mean having to get that bus to and from work (shudder).
Don’t worry though, because simply by following our simple advice you can ensure you keep your car WARM this winter.
So what does WARM mean? Well you’ve noticed it’s capitalised and therefore it must be an acronym, and as with the very best acronyms it reads as a word that’s relevant, like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). WARM is an incredibly simple acronym that will help you give your car all the required love it desperately yearns for during the winter months.
W is for WIPERS
We all know the importance of windscreen wipers as without them your visibility can often be reduced to zero, especially during those drives where the rain stubbornly refuses to pass. Your wipers take a lot of flack in order for you to be able to see the road in front of you, with the cold weather causing them to crack and split, so you regularly need to make sure that they’re in good condition.
If you notice your wipers aren’t clearing the rain away properly or if they’re leaving smears then you need to start thinking about replacing them. Reduced visibility in bad weather will seriously jeopardise your safety – and for just a few pounds you can get them easily and quickly replaced.
A is for ANTIFREEZE
Antifreeze is a component of most, but not all, engine coolants. If you want your engine to work properly then you need to have the right concentration of coolant. Coolant levels should be regularly checked. If you have ever topped up the system with plain water then the anti freeze will have become diluted.
Make sure that once week you have a quick check of the water coolant reservoir to ensure the liquid inside is at maximum level. If you notice it drop then there could be a leak in the system, something you really want to avoid.
Because all cars are different make sure you use the right type of antifreeze by checking your handbook or consulting your local Trust My Garage member.
R is for RUBBER
There are two important things to keep in mind regarding your tyres: whether they have the right amount of tread and whether they’re correctly inflated.
Driving on wet and icy roads is challenging even for a seasoned driver. Over or under-inflation can affect steering and braking, and if the tread on your tyres isn’t at least 1.6mm-the legal requirement for cars and light vans- then they’re going to struggle and put you and other drivers at risk. Having sufficient tread will help prevent skidding and dreaded aquaplaning, when your car loses traction and is lifted by the water on the road. Sound scary? It is, terrifyingly so, so check your tyres!
For more information on checking your tyres and the things you can do yourself, visit the Tyresafe website here.
M is for MAINTENANCE
Cars are not only expensive pieces of equipment but yours most likely holds an important place in your heart, like a metallic member of your extended family. Therefore it makes sense to look after it by carrying out a few basic checks every week and regularly getting it serviced at your trusted dealer. Whilst it may be a bit of a chore, these easy tips will not only keep you safe, but also increase the longevity of your motor, saving you money in the long run.
How else can I keep my car WARM?
A simple service from a local Trust My Garage (TMG) member can ensure that your vehicle is safe and fit for driving. TMG members have access to technical information and expertise to ensure your car remains roadworthy in the harsh winter wonderland that will soon envelope us.
Where is my local Trust My Garage Member?
To locate your nearest Trust My Garage member and take advantage of quality service at an affordable price, simply log onto www.trustmygarage.co.uk and type in your postcode to see a list of Trust My Garage members in your area. Members of Trust My Garage are true professionals – local independent businesses which are part of your community. Trust My Garage is the truly independent scheme for independent garages.