Advice

How to prepare your car for winter

There are a few simple ways to get your car ready for the colder months, from carrying extra bits and bobs in the boot, to checking your tyres. Here are all our top tips to get you through winter.

Words by: First published: 6th November 2017
We may not get Arctic conditions here in the UK, but it still gets cold and icy. There are a few simple ways to get your car ready for winter, so follow our tips, and have a much less stressful – and much safer – season.
  • Check your liquid levels – screenwash, anti-freeze, coolant, oil, fuel
  • Check your car battery
  • Clean your windows inside and out
  • Clean your lights
  • Check your tyres
  • Consider fitting winter tyres
  • Check your wiper blades
  • Clear leaves from under your bonnet
  • Carry your phone charger with you
  • Consider buying a car cover
  • Make a winter car survival kit
If you don’t want to do all that yourself, many car garages and dealers offer a professional winter car check, which won’t cost much money. Some places even do it for free.

If your car is due for a service, it would be worth getting this done before winter sets in. Some garages offer winter specific services.
Make a winter car survival kit
It may seem a bit extreme, but making up a winter car survival kit could be really helpful, and keep you safe if you break down. You might have a scraper already (shout out to any of you who still use tape cases to scrape ice off. Also, please go buy a proper scraper…), but it’s also worth getting a few extra bits.

You can buy a small camping shovel for around £5-7, and look at getting a first aid kit, torch, warning triangle, jump leads, spare carpet to use if your tyres are stuck/spinning, and tow-rope as well. If you’ve got a spare coat, throw that in the boot, along with a hi-vis jacket, and some boots/wellies and other warm clothes. Also carry some food, such as high-energy cereal bars, which will also help if you forget to have breakfast.
Check your car battery
If your battery is more than five years old, it will be worth getting it replaced. That’s the average life expectancy of a battery, according to the AA. Your local garage will be able to check its health.

Also check the battery terminals are clean and tight. If there is any corrosion, you can clean it off with warm water, and apply some petroleum jelly afterwards to help prevent corrosion.
Clean your windows
Of course, it’s always important that you can see out of your windscreen and windows, but a combination of dirt and low sun can make things extra tricky in winter. Keep a pair of sunglasses in the car, make sure your windows are clean inside and out, and check for any cracks in the glass, which could become worse in winter.
Clean your lights
As well as being able to see where you’re going, it’s also important that people can see you! Make sure all your lights – indicators, brake lights, fog lights included! – are all clean.
Check your tyres and consider fitting winter tyres
Check your tyres for any obvious faults such as cracks or splits, but also check your tread depth. The legal minimum limit is 1.6mm, but in the colder months, it’s better to have a minimum of 3mm of tread on your tyres. That helps with traction and grip. You can check using a tread depth gauge, or get a rough idea by looking at the tread wear indicators on your tyre.

Also check you’ve got the correct tyre pressure – you can find the recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) figure in your manual, or online. If it needs topping up, there’s an air pump at most petrol stations, or you can buy a kit to keep at home.

It’s worth thinking about changing to a set of winter tyres. They will give you more grip and shorter stopping distances in poor conditions. And you don’t need snow and ice to get the benefit: as long as the temperature remains below seven degrees Celsius, they’re better than the equivalent summer tyre.
Check your wiper blades
Careful not to yank them off if they’re frozen (you might need some de-icer to help), but do check if there are any cracks or splits in the blades and buy new ones if they’re not working as well as they used to. Winter will do its best to throw all sorts of extra grime at your windscreen.
Clear leaves from under your bonnet
While you’re checking your fluid levels, clear all the leaves from the edge of your bonnet. They could block the drains that take away rainwater, which could lead to water leaking into your car.
Carry your phone charger with you
You don’t want to run out of phone battery in the middle of nowhere, so carry your phone charger in the car just in case. Also consider buying a small charge pack to keep in the glovebox, so you have a back-up if you don’t have any other means of charging.

And write your breakdown number on a piece of paper in the glovebox, as well as having it saved on your phone.
Consider buying a car cover
It’s not a necessity for winter, but a car cover can help prevent fluids in your car freezing, save you precious time in the morning when you don’t have to de-ice your windows (five more minutes in bed, yay), and help to protect your car from salt that might be spread near your home.
Check your liquid levels
There are a few bits to check here, but it won’t take you much time.

There are two people in this world: those that top up their fuel when they’re basically running on air, and those that re-fuel when the tank is half full. In winter, especially, try to be the latter!

Check your coolant level is between the min and max mark. It shouldn’t need topping up, but do double check. If it does, you’ll need to get your car to a garage. And remember, don’t open the filler cap unless the engine is cold.

You’ll need more screenwash in winter due to all the extra dirt around, so keep an eye on this, and make sure you have enough. Also use proper screenwash rather than just water, so it doesn’t freeze. But don’t put anti-freeze in your washer bottle!

Check your oil level is between the minimum and maximum mark, and top it up if needed.