How To Prepare Your Car For Winter
Tips And Advice For Staying Safe
Winter can bring with it its own series of driving hazards, some unique to Ireland, including sudden drops in temperature which can lead to adverse driving conditions. At Chill, we believe it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to preparing for the cold weather ahead. To help you be prepared for the potential bad weather coming our way, we’ve compiled all the ways you can make sure your car’s ready for everything - including torrential rain, snow showers, glaring sun and freezing temperatures.
Make Sure You’re Prepared
At any time of year, many conversations start with a quick “how’s the weather?”. When it comes to the winter, this obsession kicks into overdrive. In recent years, there have been many times when the cold weather has caught the country off guard, so it’s important to prepare yourself for any eventuality in the future. Check out this blog we wrote about being prepared for the road by having an emergency kit to keep you safe all year round.
Every good emergency kit has a high-vis jacket and various safety materials. Before you set off, make sure that not only do you have an emergency kit but that you have proper safety material in it. This can include warning triangles, safety beacons and cones. In the colder weather, it’s also worth keeping some blankets and warm clothes in your car in case you break down and have to spend some time waiting.
Invest In Some Winter Tyres
Changing over from your normal tyres to winter specific tyres is a great idea. Although not widely used in Ireland at present, winter or snow tyres are designed to stay soft in cold temperatures for ultimate grip on ice which offers the user better road security during a sudden cold snap. Check with your local garage or tyre shop for more information on these types of tyres.
Tyre pressure needs to be checked constantly in the winter. Believe it or not, the temperature can have a big impact on your tyre pressure. This is because the pressure per square inch decreases in cold weather, meaning that your tyres could be under inflated. If you haven’t checked the pressure since summer, now might be the best time to do it. If the tyres are under inflated, not only could it affect the car’s steering and handling capabilities, but it could also have an effect on the lifespan of the tyres and could increase treadwear.
Check Your Liquids
Check that you are using the correct oil and coolant for the season that you are in. Because outside temperatures can influence the internal temperature of your engine, you need to make sure you're using the proper oil for the season you are in. Check your car’s manual or speak to a qualified mechanic to make sure you are using the correct liquids.
Fill Up On Windscreen Fluid
During the winter months, there might be a chance that your windscreen wiper fluids freeze if there is a sudden cold snap. Try to have a good 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze solution once the weather gets colder.
Between the rain, sleet and snow, driving in winter means your visibility can be significantly reduced, so it’s crucial that your windscreen is clean and clear at all times. You should regularly wipe your screen on the inside and out, and it’s a good idea to replace your wiper blades if they’re particularly worn.
Check The Battery
Your battery is your car’s life source, so it is vitally important that you check it during the winter as much as possible. During this season, there is increased demand on your car battery due to you having to use your heaters more, windscreen wipers and demisters more often, so it’s necessary to keep on top of it constantly to stop you being caught out.
Before the winter weather takes hold, have your car serviced or checked out by a qualified mechanic so that any potential power drains are identified and rectified. Invest in a pair of jumper cables so that if you do have an issue with your battery, you can call upon help to get your car started.
How Does Cold Weather Affect Your Battery?
Car batteries are much more susceptible to faults in the cold weather. This is because the reduced temperatures can slow down the chemical reactions that a battery relies on in order to work effectively. A battery is required to power the starter motor which in turn powers up the engine. Therefore, with a flat or low battery, there may not be enough power to start the car up at all. Electric vehicles are particularly prone to drained batteries in cold weather.
How To Warm Up Your Battery In Cold Weather?
Once your battery is cold, it can be difficult to warm it up quickly to get your car going. However, there may be some preventative measures that you can take so that you don’t have any issues starting your car in the morning.
You could try parking your car in a more sheltered spot, such as a garage or down the side of the house if you have space. This will protect it from the cold wind and may help to keep your battery a little bit warmer. If neither of these options are viable, you could invest in a car cover or even a battery blanket that will help to protect it.
Older batteries should be replaced, so if you’ve had your battery for around five years or more, it may be time for a new one.
You should avoid putting too much pressure on your car battery in winter. Give yourself plenty of time to set off in the morning, allowing for time to turn the ignition on and wait a couple of minutes before starting the engine.
If you do have an issue with your car battery during the winter, make sure you contact your insurer as many car insurance providers such as Chill include breakdown assist with standard policies.
Check Your Locks and Door Seals
In dropping temperatures, it’s not unusual for locks and door seals to freeze shut. However, there are a couple of things you could do to avoid this unwanted hassle. A top tip is to coat your rubber door seals with a thin layer of Vaseline and apply a squirt of WD-40 inside your locks. This should help you get in and out of your car with ease.
Make Sure Your Lights Are Working Properly
Being able to see and being seen clearly by other motorists on the road is a must, especially during the winter when it’s darker outside. You should check and clean your car lights on a regular basis, and carry spare bulbs with you just in case.
Be Wary Of Corrosion
During cold spells, you’re more likely to see gritters out and about, spreading salt on local roads and highways across Ireland. This is done to ensure that all roads remain safe, and the salt can prevent skidding when it’s icy or snowing. While the grit can help to prevent an accident, it can be very corrosive to your car’s paintwork. Corrosion involves the transfer of electrons from one material to another. Salt can speed up this process, meaning that the paint is more likely to corrode and rust. Keep an eye out for this, and keep your car clean to prevent the salt having an effect on your car’s exterior.
Fix Any Unseen Cracks
A small chip on your windscreen in summer might not cause too much of a problem. However, if left untreated, it could get worse and increase in size in winter. Although you mightn't see them when they happen, chances are you will begin to notice them once the cold season starts.
Moisture can get into a small crack or chip. When this moisture freezes as the temperature drops, it can crack the windscreen further. Soon, what was once a small crack can become very large to the point where you need a full windscreen replacement. Inspect your windows before the cold weather sets in, and get any tiny cracks fixed ahead of time to avoid disaster.
Be Wary Of Reduced Fuel Efficiency
The cold weather can cause you to use more fuel than you might otherwise. This can be caused by leaving the engine running while you de-ice the car and even under inflated tyres, as discussed previously. Lower temperatures can also increase the viscosity of the oil and other fluids in your car, which means that more work and more fuel is required to overcome friction in the engine, transmission and other drive train components.
Don’t Drive Without Full Visibility
From a safety point of view, remember never to start your journey if you don't have full visibility out of your windscreen (front and rear). Many of us are normally rushing around in the morning and set off with just a small patch defrosted on the driver's side of the windscreen. This is really unsafe, and if you can't see clearly it could contribute towards an accident.
Additionally, it's a good idea to remove any ice from your roof or windows before you set off, as this can fall and block your vision when driving. We recommend that you don't attempt to drive until it’s been fully removed. If snow begins to fall when you're on the road, you should pull over and scrape it off your car. Running a few minutes late is a small price to pay to lower the chances of a claim.
Commonly Asked Questions
Why Does My Engine Light Come On In Cold Weather?
Modern cars have plenty of sensors so that when a problem arises, we can be alerted as soon as possible via lights and warning signs on our dashboard. If you’ve noticed more lights than normal on your dash during the cold weather, there could be a good reason for it.
You may be alarmed when you see your engine warning light come on, but generally, when this happens in cold weather, it’s more likely that it’s alerting you to a low or flat battery. Alternatively, you might have a separate low battery light that comes on. A low battery can cause all kinds of issues and can affect the electrical components, including sensors and windows.
Why Won’t My Car Start In The Cold?
It’s not just a low battery that could prevent your car from starting in the cold weather, but also alternator and starter motor issues. The alternator is what charges the battery as you drive the car, and so an issue with this device can lead to a flat battery. You may also notice problems such as faulty electric windows, flashing headlights and flickering dashboard lights.
Is It A Good Idea To Leave My Engine Running In The Morning To Defrost The Car?
As tempting as it may seem, it’s important not to put your engine on in the morning to heat the car up before you get into it. Take a moment to consider the risk associated with leaving your car running and unattended, even at 6am in the morning. You are leaving the car exposed as an open target for thieves to hop in and drive off. How nice of you to even warm it up for them and leave the keys in the ignition!
Car theft has always been the number one fear of many motorists and that is why it is covered under your insurance. After all, car insurance is there to protect you in the event of a crash or theft. But did you know that if you leave the car running with the keys in the ignition, even outside your own house, and the car is stolen, your insurer may not cover you for this claim? It’s best not to take the risk.
Will Hot Water De-Ice My Car?
When you use hot water on a car, you run the risk of cracking the windscreen. During the winter months this is a common problem, and will require you to go through your insurer to get the windscreen replaced. Most policies cover this, and it doesn't usually affect your no claims bonus, but it is still a big hassle you could do without.
To reduce the possibility of a claim you should use cold water to pour over the windscreen. The water will still defrost the ice, but won't run the risk of cracking the glass.
The weather can change without much warning, but there are some things you can do in advance to ensure that your car is ready for the winter months. If you are preparing for the winter, make sure that your car insurance covers you in case you encounter any issues by checking your cover and the specifics of your policy.