JSF Driving School has put together some useful top tips to keep you and your car safe on the road during the colder months, and save money on your garage bills in the longer term!
Check that the tyres have sufficient tread depth. The legal requirement is that tyres should have a tread depth of 1.6mm throughout the central ¾ of the breadth of the tyre and around the entire outer circumference. Check your tyre pressure regularly when they are cold making sure you consult your car user manual for details. Remember to include the spare tyre in your routine.
If your tyres are under-inflated this will cause your tyres to wear more quickly on the outer edges. Overinflation will cause increased wear on the centre of the tyre. The correct pressure will give you better road contact and even wearing across the tyre. If you notice that the tyre is wearing thin on one side only, then it is most likely to be that your tracking is out, which can be rectified by your garage.
Check your oil level weekly when the engine is cold, by removing the dipstick. Wipe clean and replace. Remove again and ensure that the oil level mark is between the minimum and maximum levels as indicated on the dip stick. Top up if necessary with a suitable oil for your car, as described in the Car Manual, making sure that you do not overfill as this could lead to excessive oil pressure in the engine which can cause leaks or even damage.
Consulting your Car Manual if necessary, identify the brake fluid and power steering fluid reservoirs. Keep these topped up to the maximum indicated level.
Ensure that there is sufficient fluid in your radiator, with the correct antifreeze mix for the weather conditions. If in doubt, your garage can identify the current mix levels for you and advise on any adjustments needed. If topping up yourself, do so when the engine is cold. Avoid topping up when the engine is hot as high pressure is built up inside the radiator, and serious scalding can occur from steam when the radiator cap is removed. If absolutely necessary to top up when the engine is hot, use a towel, gently unscrewing the radiator cap a bit at a time, allowing the steam to gently escape a bit at a time. Never add cold water to a hot radiator! Either carefully add hot water, or preferably let the engine cool down first before adding warm water.
Windscreen Wipers & Wash
It is a legal requirement that your front windscreen should be completely clear of ice, snow and/or condensation prior to moving on to the highway. From a safety point of view, all windows should be clear for all-round visibility. It is also a legal requirement that the windscreen washers should be in working order and topped up. Adding a screen washer to the water reservoir will help clear the accumulation of road dirt, exhaust fumes and other things that congeal on the windscreen. In the winter, use a screen wash that has an anti-freezing agent added to it. This will help to prevent the screen wash from freezing. NEVER add engine antifreeze to the screen wash as it could damage your car paintwork!
(JSF Top Tip – keep a pin in the car. If the washer nozzles get blocked with dirt, or become bunged/iced up, they can be cleaned there and then using the pin. A good place to keep it is in the roof lining of the car, on the driver side!)
Clean wiper blade rubbers regularly as grease and dirt accumulate on them. Dirt can scratch the windscreen and distort your vision. (Another JSF Top Tip – kitchen towel dampened with vinegar is a good smear free way of clearing grease and dirt from the rubbers.) During icy conditions the rubbers may become stuck to the windscreen. Don’t pull the wipers from the windscreen as the rubbers will probably remain frozen to the screen. Instead use a warm, damp sponge, run gently along the rubbers, until the ice melts and they can be eased away from the glass. Use the sponge to safely remove further ice and to make the rubbers more pliable. Never pour hot water on to the blades or the windscreen itself as this may crack the glass.
The easiest, most hassle-free, and environmentally friendly option is to cover your windscreen with a sheet of material or cardboard before the frost sets in the night before the vehicle is needed. If you do come out to find a frozen or iced up windscreen, then you have several options. A spray de-icer can be costly, is not environmentally sound, but works! The old-fashioned scraper is effective, but can result in a scratched windscreen and frostbite if you are not careful. The final option, if appropriate, is to leave the engine running with the doors and windows closed, so that the ventilation system can warm the car up from the inside, and defrost the windows. This is an effective method, but again is environmentally questionable! Please note that it is illegal to leave a vehicle with a running engine unattended on a public highway!
Remember to stay safe, and within the law, by waiting until the windscreen is completely clear before driving off!
Please check out our blog menu above for lots of more top tips and driving advice. We’ve even got a blog with some advice on driving in snow and ice. We’re always happy to receive comments and suggestions especially with any driving related blog ideas you may want to see covered, and feel free to share.