January is traditionally one of the worst months for vehicle breakdowns. This isn't exactly the news you want after a very merry Christmas - come January, some of us are already feeling blue.
Regardless of whether the winter is cold and icy or mild and moist; our cars still need a little extra TLC to keep them running smoothly.
Approved Garages technicians come across several common car problems this time of year. Here they share some tips on how you can avoid unnecessary car issues and what vehicle checks you should complete this winter:
Your car’s electrical systems have to work harder in winter thanks to the extra use of lights and heaters. The RAC says that it handled over 2,500 battery-related breakdowns on just one January day in 2015.
Avoid being one of those drivers this year and remember to switch all electrics off – from lights and blowers to iPods and rear-screen heater – when not in use. You should also charge the battery before driving if the car hasn’t been used for a while.
It is recommended that you also check battery links for corrosion and if your battery was installed before 2012, have it tested to ensure you won’t face any bother in the coming months. Finally, take the car out for a decent run at regular intervals to keep the battery topped up. Simply idling the engine for a few minutes may not be enough.
Check that coolant levels are between the minimum and maximum levels. It is also important to see whether your coolant contains sufficient anti-freeze. A frozen engine can be an expensive repair, so if in doubt ask your local Approved or AutoCare garage to recommend the correct coolant for your car.
It’s obvious but it’s definitely worth reminding: don’t attempt to drive until you have full visibility of the road ahead, behind and on either side. If you are always running late due to icy windows, factor that extra ten minutes of de-icing or de-misting time into your daily routine. To this end keep topped up with de-icer and keep an ice scraper in the car at all times. If windscreen wipers produce a smear rather than a crystal clear windscreen you may have to replace the wiper blades. Your local independent garage will be happy to do this for you as part of a winter check-up.
Your tyres are the only components in your vehicle that have contact with the road, which means performance and safety are heavily dependent on their condition. It’s always important to check tyre tread and pressure regularly, and even more so in consistently wet or icy conditions. We recommend you check tyre pressure weekly in winter.
Although the minimum tread depth on tyres required by law is 1.6mm, the AA recommends that motorists have no less than 2mm and preferably 3mm for winter driving. If you live in an area prone to snow – and there may still be plenty to come this winter – it’s worth considering winter tyres.
It’s the simplest winter test of all, but it can be a life saver. Check your exterior lights regularly and replace bulbs as soon as they go out. It’s worth carrying spares in the car at all times as it is a legal requirement to have working headlights and brake lights on your vehicle.
Also remember to clean lights regularly because dirt and salt deposits can build up quickly in winter, limiting visibility.
If you’re in any doubt about your car’s roadworthiness this winter, remember that any AutoCare or Approved Garage member will be happy to give it a winter once over for your peace of mind. Find your nearest trusted independent garage here.