Looking after your car in winter

Looking after your car in winter

A typical UK winter can throw some nasty challenges at motorists – from snowy blizzards and icy roads to lashing rain and heavy winds.

To make sure your car is in tip-top shape to face these conditions, you can carry out the following relatively simple maintenance checks.

Tyre tread and pressure

Well-maintained tyres give better traction on wet and icy roads.

Check the tyre tread looks good and is within the legal limit of 1.6mm deep – although experts recommend at least 2mm to 3mm to be on the safe side.

You can use a tyre gauge to do so, or if you place a 20p coin into a tread groove and can’t see the outer band, you’re fine.

You should also check the air pressure in your tyres as the pressure drops as the air gets colder – keeping this at the correct level is crucial for road grip.

Your car’s manual will give you the figure in pounds per square inch – around 40 is normal.

Wiper blades 

Wipers that aren’t well maintained can make driving visibility terrible in wet or snowy conditions.

Running your fingers along the length of the rubber will allow you to feel for splits and rough patches.

Also, pour water on both your front and rear windows and watch closely for poor visibility areas when you turn your wipers on.

Experts recommend wipers are changed every twelve months.

Finally, make sure your screenwash water is topped up and the type you use contains anti-freeze.


A frozen car radiator can prevent your car from starting and can damage the engine.

To prevent this, you should make sure you use a coolant that contains anti-freeze in your car’s cooling system.

Pour the coolant into the radiator reservoir, making sure you keep within the minimum and maximum level as shown by the markers on the side of the reservoir.


It’s vital you can see and be seen at any time while driving, but particularly in winter when it gets dark earlier and the weather is worse.

Walk around your car and check the indicators are working correctly – a rapid clicking noise when the indicator is on is a warning sign that you may need to change a bulb.

Check headlights, sidelights, braking lights, and even the bulb above the number plate, and change any that are defective.

Clean the covers regularly to maintain maximum brightness.


Failing batteries are the primary cause of breakdown call-outs – especially in winter.

If your car starts more slowly than usual, or a red warning light on your dashboard display is flickering or showing red, you need to get the battery checked, or at least charged up.

Experts recommend changing the battery every three to four years, depending on how much you drive and the type of vehicle.


When it comes to avoiding accidents, brakes that are working well or poorly can make all the difference, especially in bad weather.

If you can hear scraping, squealing or grinding noises when you brake, or your car judders or you can sense other unusual reactions, they need looking at.

Also, cold weather can freeze-up brakes, so set off slowly in freezing conditions.

Leave it to the experts

One of the best ways to maintain your car is to get it serviced. A full-service costs around £150, but it’s well worth it to make sure your car is as safe to drive as possible.

A decent garage will check everything needed and change and top up fluids and oil, which means you don’t have to.