Winter is upon us once again. And while we may not be certain of a flurry of snow every year, you can be certain that the Great British weather will throw a combination of wintery gifts our way, bringing difficulties for all of us, especially car drivers. It’s the time of year when you don’t just need to start making changes to the way you drive, but also to the way you look after your vehicle. Breakdowns are far more likely at this time of year due to poor weather conditions. So what can you do yourself to ensure this doesn’t happen and you have a hassle free winter?
Let there be light
Now that the nights have drawn in and it’s dark from mid-afternoon, visibility is a key consideration when driving. Not only are lights essential for you to be able see when driving, but also to ensure other drivers can see you. Regularly check that all the lights on your vehicle are in working order, this includes brake and reversing lights. Ensure that they are clean, especially after wet weather when the roads are muddy, and that the lights are aimed in the right direction and if you find any bulbs that are discoloured, they should be immediately replaced.
Stop right there
Brakes are an essential part of any car and therefore should be serviced regularly. 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 check them regularly. 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, 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 with the braking system. Look out for the signs and don’t ignore them. Vibrations and temperamental pedals are also a sign you need to take give your car some attention. Remember, that you can always take your car to a Trust My Garage member to get the brakes checked. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
A well-oiled machine?
A basic consideration for any car owner when carrying out maintenance checks is to understand the importance of keeping your vehicle well lubricated to ensure it remains in optimum condition and working order. Falling temperatures mean that car fluids will thicken, making it difficult for your vehicle to get the right fluids it needs to run properly.
Make sure you regularly check your oil levels, coolant and brake fluid. If you’re not sure how, visit your local TMG member. You can find them using the search function on our website or by using the Trust My Garage app.
The importance of robust car tyres cannot be understated, as they are the only part of your vehicle that grips the road; they play a vital part in keeping you and your vehicle safe. Wintery conditions and low tread depth can be a disastrous combination, reducing both your speed and grip. Without sufficient tread depth in wet conditions you may experience a particularly dangerous occurrence called aquaplaning. This is where tyres lose contact with the road surface and travel on top of the water’s surface. With no contact with the road, comes the inability to accelerate, brake or steer properly, and you are likely to lose control of your vehicle, thus significant increasing your risk of accident.
When checking tyre tread it is best to use a tread depth gauge rather than relying on intuition. With this implement to hand, measuring tread depth is not difficult and will take up only minutes of your time. For passenger cars, the European legal minimum tread depth is 1.6 mm, across 75% of the tyre, although the deeper the depth the better grip you will have – we recommend that you consider changing your tyres when the tread depth reaches 3mm. Check the depth of the main tread grooves in several places across and around the tyre, using the gauge. In addition, tyres have tread wear indicators in the base of the main grooves. When the tread surface is worn to the same level as these indicators, the tyre is at the legal limit and should be replaced. As a temporary alternative there is also a quick test with a 20p coin if you do not have a gauge to hand. Place the coin in the groove of the tyre and if you can see the inner edge of the border of the coin, it means your tread depth is less than 3mm and you should consider replacing that tyre.
Don’t let the pressure get to you
In addition to tread, checking tyre pressure regularly is vital, even more so during cold weather. Whether using your own pump, or a supermarket garage air pump, here’s how you can do it:-
Check what the tyre pressures should be before you start the pump, you will find this information in your user manual and often on a sticker on the hidden side of the driver or passenger door. Remember that your front and rear tyres may need different pressures. Go round the vehicle with the pump, checking the pressure on each wheel and inflating/deflating as required.
Regularly inspect the condition of the tyres and make sure there are no cracks or bulges, make sure there are no obvious cuts or tears which could lead to a blow-out or puncture and of course don’t forget that spare!
And if you ever find yourself in the event of having to change a tyre on the road, make sure you watch our video:
If you are unsure about your tyres, a visit to your local Trust My Garage member will give you peace of mind and keep you safe on the roads.
Such checks shouldn’t replace regular visits to your local Trust My Garage member for some expert advice; but being aware and prepared for all eventualities will give you peace of mind and a stress free winter.