January is famously the time when we re-evaluate our lifestyle choices and resolve to take better care of our bodies, finances and lifestyles… but in the hurry to join the gym, boost our vitamins and tighten our spending after festivities have taken their toll, many of us understandably forget to make sure our cars are keeping up with the seasonal struggle – something which could prove rather pricey when the next MOT comes around.
Fear not though, because Motoriety are pleased to bring you some easy-to-stick-to “MOTOResolutions” to keep your car in tip-top condition throughout the winter months, help you drive safely in dangerous conditions and hopefully avoid those big bills we all associate with motoring.
Rain, fog, sleet, grit and snow not only reduce our visibility but they can also cause our cars to be mucky, which in turn can cloud windscreens, obscure numberplates, and coat headlights in dirt – significantly reducing their effectiveness.
MOTOResolution: Simply run your car through a basic car wash once every two weeks and keep your screen wash topped up. This can improve visibility, brighten your headlamps and make you more visible to other drivers.
Although an alternative set of winter tyres can seem like a pricey venture, they do provide an additional level of safety and security for motorists in the winter weather. A 2013 study by Santander Car Insurance found that 1 in 4 drivers in the UK has had a car accident in snowy or icy conditions, although only 3% of UK drivers switch their tyres in winter time. And arguably, if you have two sets of tyres, each will last twice as long…meaning you are still getting the same value for money as with just one set!
MOTOResolution: Consider buying a set of winter tyres, particularly if you live in a rural area with lots of un-gritted roads. If you are debating the cost and don’t deem it worthwhile, consider the passengers you carry in your car and the other road users before you rule it out. If you decide not to switch tyres for winter, ensure the tread depth on your tyres is compliant with lawful guidelines (at least 1.6mm, although 3mm is recommended) and that the tyres are in good condition.
The winter can wreak havoc on our windscreens and wipers; with harsh hailstones pummelling the glass and wet weather causing other vehicles’ tyres to kick up grit and stones, the chance of getting a small crack or chip is drastically increased. This is often bad news for motorists when it comes to MOT time as any damage over 10mm in the “swept” area (in front of the driver) will cause a car to fail. In addition, wipers aren’t up to the heavy demands of our weather and can often warp or tear, causing streaks, smears and dangerous visual impairment. Finally, frosty screens that are being constantly de-iced in a hurry can become scratched and damaged.
MOTOResolution: Do these three quick checks before you drive can help to prevent all of these issues:
When driving on slippery roads at low speeds, using second rather than first gear will help you to avoid wheel-spin. This also applies when setting off or climbing hills, and will help you to avoid unnecessary delays by stalling and crawling!
MOTOResolution: If your grip is low, so is your gear. Pick a higher gear for a smoother ride.
Although this seems like an obvious one, in a car you drive regularly, it is often difficult to notice the gradual decline of brake function. In slippery conditions, the smallest amount of brake-damage could be the difference between a collision and a near-miss.
MOTOResolution: Test your brake pads, brake discs and brake pipes (most tyre specialists will provide this service free of charge) and have any issues fixed.
Winter takes its toll on your car’s battery – it takes considerably more energy to start your car from freezing temperatures than it does in the warm summer months. Additionally, battery capacity can be reduced in cold weather, particularly when your battery is nearing the end of its life. It is therefore very important to make sure your battery is up to the tough job it’s facing this winter, so that you don’t find yourself met with silence when you try set off out on a cold winter morning.
Many garages offer free battery tests, which are well worth taking advantage of. You also need to take your car out often enough to replenish the battery, so try to make sure it gets a good run at least once a week.
MOTOResolution: Get your battery checked professionally and watch your usage! Get a battery test from a garage and run your car enough to retain charge (keeping a set of jump-leads in the boot won’t do any harm either).
Standing stranded on the side of the road is never a picnic, but in winter it can be painfully cold and potentially dangerous. If your passengers include children or the elderly, an hour-long wait for recovery could potentially cause illness and trauma. Prepare for this eventuality by keeping an emergency supply kit of blankets, food and water bottles.
MOTOResolution: Pack a bag containing a blanket (or thermal sleeping bag), energy bars (or similarly small, nutritious items like nuts, dried fruit etc) and water bottles in your car, along with a standard small-sized first aid kit, high-vis jackets, an in-car phone charger and of course, a torch.
Anti-freeze help you to avoid a multitude of issues that can be caused as a result of frozen fluids in pipes and sub-zero temperatures. By using it in your radiator and windscreen wash you can prevent pipe bursts and park in freezing conditions overnight knowing that your car fluids won’t be frozen in the morning.
MOTOResolution: Top up your antifreeze levels and keep them replenished (but never after you have just driven as the engine will need time to cool).