From heavy rain to black ice, road conditions can change quickly when driving at this time of year – which is why it’s essential to carry out some simple but safe checks on your car before you leave home.
We asked the motoring experts at Haynes for the five checks every motorist should make before hitting the road this winter.
1. Check screen wash levels
Running out of screen wash on a journey can lead to hazardous driving. Before setting out, check all of your fluid levels, with particular emphasis on your washer fluid. You may not be able to see the screen wash fluid level if the tank is hidden from view, so simply pop the cap and top it up.
2. Check your wiper blades
Don’t throw caution to the wind by driving with a streaky windscreen. Wiper blades should be changed every 12 months because the rubber can perish over time if it has been exposed to sunlight and cold temperatures. It’s important to change all wiper blades at the same time - both the front and the rear screen blade if you have one.
3. Check your tyre pressure
Checking tyre pressures on a weekly basis is a great way to save money but is also an essential safety check. Correct pressures mean that the tyre will roll more efficiently, saving you on precious fuel and actually making the tyres last longer.
4. Check your tyre condition
Having good tyre control when driving in slippery or rainy conditions is key. When it comes to tyre condition, the legal minimum tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm across the centre two thirds of a tyre. If tyres are below this limit, you could face both a fine and points on your licence. There are tread wear indicators on most tyres which look like raised bumps in the groves - when these bumps are at the same height as the tread your tyre is on the limit. Tyres seldom wear evenly, so look at the whole width of the tyre to see whether it's worn out or not.
It's good practice to replace the tyres when they get to around 3mm. Lower than this and braking and handling in the wet will be compromised. A good way to test this is with a 20p coin. The outer band of a 20p is just less than 3mm thick so insert the 20p into the tyre tread and if the outer band is obscured by the tread the tyre is fine. Any less and it's time to consider a replacement. Incidentally the width of a 20p is 1.7mm, so you can also use that as a gauge.
5. Check your battery
Cold weather conditions can reduce the life of a battery. It’ll be obvious when your battery is flat: the central locking may not work and the engine won’t turn over. However, it’s not always easy to know when the battery needs to be replaced. Once the car has been started (via jump leads/jumper cables, bump-started or battery trickle-charged) take the car for at least a 20-minute run to charge the battery. Turn the engine off and restart it the next morning. If it’s flat again get the battery checked to see if it needs replacing.