Don’t get left out in the cold. Get your car winter ready with the best tips and advice…
Isn’t driving in the summer great? The roads are dry and warm, the views out of the windscreen paint a beautiful, sun-clad picture of our pleasant surroundings and the biggest worry for most of us boils down to what temperature to set the climate control to.
But as those leaves begin to fall and we dig our musty parkas out of the loft once again, a little car prep can go a long way in avoiding having to spend the night in a barn with a lonely famer whilst waiting for the AA to try and track you down through the snow. Doesn’t sound appealing? You better listen to our top winter advice, then…
1. RUBBER UP
Although not a legal necessity in the UK, you could do a lot worse than taking a leaf out of our German neighbour’s book by bagging yourself a dedicated set of winter tyres for the colder months. These puppies are the business and In snow they’ll make a Fiesta go places a Chelsea Tractor could only dream of. Their softer compound is naturally more grippy, but the real magic is created by the tyres’ sipes. These are the little slits you see in the tread and are designed to open up and bite into snow and collect it. This snow-on-snow contact provides grip, a bit like when rolling up a snow ball. Experts reckon they’re most useful when the air gets below 7°, so you’ll certainly get your money’s worth out of them with our lovely British climate!
2. KEEP IT GLEAMING
It’s the toughest time of the year for your car’s bodywork with the roads full of mud, rain, salt and other grubby shite. The thing to do is get your car ultra clean before winter his, apply polish and then treat the paintwork to a good quality LSP (last stage product). We’d recommend something like Auto Finesse’s Tough Coat. A synthetic sealant designed to protect your paint for up to 6-months! This should see your paintwork protected for the whole of winter.
Once you’ve given your paintwork this treatment, avoid contact washes (wiping the car down with a wash-mitt/sponge) because every time you do this, it is effectively rubbing dirt into your paint, scratching the surface. Wash you car using a snow foam, this will lift the grime away from your paintwork. Most of the dirt should lift off because of the smooth layer of sealant beneath. We’d recommend using ValetPRO’s pH Neutral Snow Foam as this won’t take off your all-important layers of polish and wax!
If you haven’t got a set of winter wheels and can’t afford a set, not all is lost! With a bit of effort you can prep your wheels for winter too. Stage one is to give them a good clean, using a good quality wheel cleaner, we recommend Meguiar’s Mirror Bright as this stuff is quite simply awesome. Once your wheels are nice and clean, spend time giving them a coat of sealant – the same stuff as you use on your paintwork as the same principles apply.
3. MAKE SURE YOU’RE COVERED
It’s no surprise that the major breakdown companies report a huge surge of call-outs during the period between December and February, largely due to flat batteries, punctures and minor engine faults caused by the rubbish weather. So just think about it this way: grabbing yourself a cheap breakdown policy might not seem like money down the drain when you’re standing on the side of the M1 in a T-shirt with a lifeless car sitting in front of you!
4. GIVE IT THE ONCE-OVER
You don’t need us to tell you that our cars are put under a little more stress at this time of year – in fact, they enjoy being out in the freezing cold about as much as we do.
This is why there’s no better time to get it serviced and checked over, especially if it’s been a while since your last one. You never know, a new set of plugs and filters might make all the difference… While you’re there, be sure to get your battery tested (normally free at larger car servicing outlets), as well as making sure your brakes are in tip-top condition. Brakes are important all year round but they’re especially important when road surfaces are wet and icy. It might even be a good time to replace your discs and pads with some EBC goodies!
5. KEEP TABS
Just because you went to the garage for a service when the longer nights started drawing in doesn’t make you invincible. You should ideally plan on performing regular checks on your motor on a weekly basis during the height of the winter. The most important stuff to look out for is whether all of your bulbs are still working, how topped up the screen wash is (consider topping this up undiluted if the instructions on the back allow it), if the engine’s got enough oil in it and what tyre pressures you’re running (check the car’s handbook for recommended winter pressures as these are likely to vary from other times of the year).
6. CRACK THE CODES
Those pretty lights flashing up on your dashboard aren’t there because it’s the festive period – they’re might actually be telling you something pretty serious is wrong with your car! Make sure you’ve swatted up on what each one means so you can tell the difference between your handbrake being slightly left on and your car’s oil pressure running dangerously low – they both have very different outcomes…
7. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Would you know how to react if you started skidding on some black ice while travelling fairly quickly down a main road? While there’s tonnes of advice online about how to drive safely in the winter, you might be best off attending one of the many advanced driver courses available in this country. Far from sitting in a classroom all day, many of these are held on skidpans at race circuits and are seriously good fun, so may be well worth your money.
8. IN-CAR ENTERTAINMENT
If all else fails and you do find yourself snowed under on a remote country road for several hours, you may as well ensure you’ve got an emergency stash of things to make the ordeal a bit more bearable. We’re talking some energy drinks, a couple of Snickers bars and the latest issue of FC in the glovebox, and maybe a portable power pack to keep your gadgets fully charged up so you can carry on watching The Fast and Furious 15 on your i-Box Pad tablet whilst live Snapchatting the whole event for your gang of mates…
9. LIFE HACKS
There are a number of old wives’ tales when it comes to winter driving that many people swear by, but we’ll let you be the judge of just how effective they actually are.
These include pouring cat litter in front of slipping tyres to aid traction when stuck, spraying shaving foam on the insides of your windows and wiping it off to de-fog them, and covering your wing mirrors in small plastic sandwich bags overnight to save scraping ice off them in the morning…
10. STAY AT HOME
If you wake up and it’s looking especially naff outside, why not just pour yourself a hot, bubbly bath and lie in that all day instead? We’d recommend passing the time by watching your favourite burnout compilation video on YouTube whilst nursing a cuppa. Just remember to turn your phone onto aeroplane mode so your boss can’t call you first…