There are many things that you do to prepare for winter; ensuring that the central heating is working, topping up your home heating oil perhaps, or merely making sure you have a good supply of movies to watch while you curl up on the sofa. But, as winter approaches, it is just as vital to ensure that you have made the correct preparations for your car to reduce the risk of it letting you down. Here are some of our top tips.
Make Sure ALL Lights Are Working
With fewer hours of daylight in winter, it’s more likely that you will be doing at least some of your driving in darkness. Combined with poorer weather conditions, this can adversely affect the visibility of your car to other motorists. It is essential to you and other drivers on the road that your lights are working correctly.
Many modern cars will display a warning symbol or message if one of your bulbs has gone, but not all do, so you should take a couple of minutes to check that all are working. It’s helpful to have someone to assist and verify that all the bulbs are operational while you cycle through the different light functions. If you can’t get someone to help, many fuel stations have areas with mirrored surfaces that allow you to check your lights while inside the car.
It’s worthwhile to carry a set of spare bulbs in your boot or glovebox, but it is equally important to know how to replace them. Sometimes this can be a tricky task, so you may need to consult your vehicle’s manual in case it requires additional parts to be removed to gain access. Many car brands offer complimentary bulb checks and replacement in their dealerships during winter, which may prove more convenient.
At least once a week during winter, it's recommended that you clean your lights, especially your headlights, as dirt, grime, and salt can build up and reduce your visibility.
We might not regularly get heavy snowfall here in Ireland, but fitting winter tyres goes far beyond that. Winter tyres, or more accurately, cold weather tyres, are made from a particular type of rubber compound that is designed to withstand the cold weather better. They contain more natural rubber than conventional tyres, resulting in a softer compound. As temperatures drop, the tyres remain supple, thus providing higher levels of adhesion and grip on the road.
The face of the tyre, or contact patch, also differs from your regular summer tyre. It features far more grooves or ‘sipes’. In wet weather, these additional channels help to disperse water more quickly from beneath the tyre. On snow and heavy frost, these tiny ridges enable the tyre to bite into the surface to provide higher levels of grip.
Many motorists may be understandably reluctant to purchase winter tyres for their cars due to the added cost, but there is value to be had in the longer term. With winter tyres, you significantly reduce the chances of being stranded should bad weather or snow occur. Equally, the increased levels of grip dramatically reduce the risk of you have an accident due to poor grip levels. It’s worth considering that buying and fitting cold weather tyres also means that you are extending the life of your regular tyres by leaving them off your car for a few more months. Many tyre retailers and car garages also offer a storage option for your summer wheels during the winter months.
Have the Right Things in Your Car
It’s a good idea to add to your normal emergency during the winter months. This can include the following: ensuring that you have a mobile phone charger in case you do get stranded. It is best practice to always have a hi-visibility vest or jacket and a reflective warning triangle in your car. Keeping some thermal or fleece clothing in the vehicle is also worthwhile. If particularly bad weather is forecast and you still need to travel, then it is recommended to carry a shovel, tow rope, and torch. You or a fellow motorist may need it to help clear around a vehicle. Having a rugged set of car floor mats doesn’t just protect the carpet inside your car, these also can be put under your car’s driven wheels to help get your moving in the snow.
Following these tips should reduce the added stress of driving in the winter months.