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RAC tips for winter car maintenance

By raccars Published

Britain seems set to suffer its usual awful winter weather, meaning winter car maintenance is more important than ever. Follow this helpful advice from the RAC.

Winter conditions can be a challenge to both your car and your driving skills. Stay as safe as possible this year by preparing your vehicle for the colder temperatures with some basic checks and maintenance. Always perform checks while the engine is cold and the car is parked on a flat, even surface.

Batteries are the most important part of winter car maintenance

Battery problems are the reason for more RAC call-outs in winter than anything else. Over 50,000 breakdown cover call outs in February 2012 alone were related to problems with batteries. Car batteries need replacing every few years, according to usage. If your battery is old or you are having problems starting, winter weather will put it under even more pressure. Get a new battery at your next car service before you find yourself inconveniently stranded. If your car isn't used very often, your battery could well struggle to perform in the colder weather. You can buy battery testers and chargers from the RAC Shop or ask your local garage to test how well your battery is functioning.

Coolant, antifreeze and other fluids

Using coolant in cold weather may sound counter intuitive but it's still necessary to keep an eye on levels of this important fluid. Your car can overheat even in cold weather. You will also need to make sure that you add the correct amount of anti-freeze to your coolant liquid in winter. Your car's manual should give you the correct ratio for coolant and antifreeze or you can ask your local garage to test the mixture in your car. Antifreeze is inexpensive to buy and can save you from a substantial repair bill or even a write-off should your car suffer damage as a result of frozen coolant. At the same time, check oil and brake fluid levels and top up if necessary.

Tyres

Worn tyres are far less effective on slippery winter roads than those with a deeper tread. Check that your tyres have plenty of tread left - the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm but experts recommend changing your tyres by 1.8mm. Cast an eye too over the general condition of your tyres. In particular look for damage in the form of uneven wear, bulges and splits. Check your tyre pressure regularly and top up to manufacturer recommended levels when necessary. If there is a risk of heavy snow in your area and you know that you will have to travel in it, consider investing in a set of winter tyres for extra grip and control. Snow socks or chains can also improve traction.

Keep your screen clean

A clean windscreen doesn't just look smart, it's an absolute necessity. Winter roads tend to be very mucky and a dirty windscreen can obscure your vision while driving. Make sure that you regularly top up your screen wash reservoir, using a screen wash suitable for freezing temperatures. Look for a screen wash rated to at least -10C, perhaps even -20C if you live in an area subject to extreme temperatures. This will prevent your washer pump from freezing and keep your wipers functioning correctly. Wipers often share a fuse with the washer pump, so if the pump freezes and blows the fuse, your wipers will be put out of action too.

Wiper blades

Wiper blades can degrade in very hot and cold weather and should be replaced regularly. When the temperature drops, wiper blades can easily freeze to the windscreen and releasing them can cause damage. Check yours on a regular basis and replace when necessary.

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