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A guide to looking after your vehicle in the winter

Car in snow

It’s common for vehicles to have reduced performance over the winter. If you’re not careful, the cold weather could have a significant impact on your vehicle’s safety and longevity.

As temperatures drop, various components are susceptible to strain, potentially leading to issues that can compromise both performance and safety. To avoid risking any vehicle complications during the winter, take a look at our comprehensive guide to taking care of your vehicle during the colder months. 

We’ve got you covered to ensure a smooth and trouble-free driving experience despite the winter challenges.

1. Engine and Battery Maintenance

The drop in temperature can make starting your car a daunting task in the winter. The battery has to work harder to start the car when it is cold because its capacity is reduced. So, we’d recommend that it’s a good idea to have your battery tested for capacity before the temperature drops.

This might be why you notice more car breakdowns over the winter.

Your vehicle’s engine might also take a hit in the winter due to various reasons. One reason is that cold temperatures cause fluids, especially oil, to thicken. When oil thickens, it makes it harder for the engine to turn over. This puts additional strain on your engine during the startup and could damage it over time.

Another reason you might notice implications with your engine is due to your vehicle’s tyres. Cold weather causes tyre pressure to drop which can put further strain on the engine. This is because underinflated tyres create more rolling resistance, and also impacts fuel efficiency. 

That moves us onto our next point about tyres.

2. Tyre Health in Icy Conditions

As mentioned previously, the cold weather can decrease tyre pressure when not moving, and increase when the car is moving. Be sure to check your tyre pressure regularly. If not, it can shorten the life of your tyre through uneven wear and could even blowout on the road.

As well as tyre pressure, winter roads demand more from your tyres. A top tip for protecting your tyres from icy conditions is to consider switching to winter tyres. These tyres are designed for icy and snowy conditions as they have a different tread pattern and rubber composition. This provides better grip and traction in cold weather.

Check out RAC for more information on winter tyres.

Car wheels on a snowy road.

3. Cooling System Maintenance

Your car’s cooling system doesn’t take a break in the winter. In fact, it’s important it works properly to ensure regulation of the running temperature of the vehicle. 

Just like the other fluids in your vehicle, your radiator coolant (antifreeze) needs to be maintained at a proper level. To inspect the radiator level, make sure the vehicle is turned off and has fully cooled down. Also, if you notice the fluid looks dark/dirty or smells burned, it may be time to replace it.

Coolant leaks can also be common in the winter. If you notice a leak that is a bright yellow/green colour, make sure to get this checked out by an expert as soon as possible to get it fixed.

4. Winter-Ready Wipers and Fluids

Navigating winter roads requires clear visibility. That’s why making sure your window wipers and fluids are in good condition is paramount.

Top Tip: Never use your wipers on a frozen windscreen. Turning on your wipers when it’s frozen can cause a tear or split in the rubber.

Check out Kwik Fit’s guide to looking after your windscreen wipers all year round.

You might also consider switching to a winter-grade windshield washer fluid that contains antifreeze. This prevents the fluid from freezing on your windshield, ensuring clear visibility even in freezing temperatures.

Car wipers in icy windshield of the car from snow.

5. Winter Waxing and Paint Care Tips

Did you know that cold weather and road salt can wreak havoc on your car’s exterior? If you’re in the position to do so, you might consider winter waxing your vehicle.

Winter waxing acts as a shield against the harsh elements, forming a protective layer that guards your car’s paintwork from snow, salt, and freezing temperatures. We recommend applying a high-quality winter wax before the cold sets in. This not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of your vehicle but also prevents potential damage caused by road salts and icy conditions. 

Regular winter waxing creates a barrier that makes it easier to wash away road debris and maintains your car’s shine throughout the season.

6. Advice on Heating Systems

Imagine if your heating broke in the middle of winter. It would make for a very painful commute to work, that’s for sure. 

If you’re worried about your heating systems over the winter, start by having your heater, defroster, and thermostat inspected to guarantee efficient operation. A functioning heating system not only keeps you warm but also contributes to your vehicle’s overall performance. 

Another point to note, if you notice any issues with uneven heating or strange noises when the heater is on, promptly address them to avoid potential breakdowns in the freezing cold.

As the temperature drops, you may need to take extra care of your vehicle. From checking your tyres and vehicle fluids, to ensuring your cooling and heating system are in good condition, and even thinking about your vehicle’s exterior, it’s a good idea to make those additional checks during the winter.

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