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The Complete Winter Driving Checklist

The long, dark nights can feel extra cosy when it’s freezing cold outside! Trouble is, at some point we do have to venture outside the safety and warmth of the house. Driving at this time of year presents additional challenges, with ice, freezing fog, steamed up windscreens, and running the gauntlet of all those extra potholes. Let’s take a look at some of the most important checks you should make on your car for safety.

Car batteries have a typical lifespan of 5 years, and are most likely to let you down in the winter as a combination of cold weather and high demand from heated windscreens and interior heaters sap their energy. If you mostly drive short journeys, your battery drains quicker in winter when it can't replace the high demand. It's definitely worth having your battery professionally tested to make sure it's in good condition, and having it replaced if it's starting to get old. A good battery will drive you on through winter without missing a beat.

Tyre health is always important, but at this time of year when the ground can be extra skiddy it’s even more important you check their condition. Your tyres are the only connection between your car and the road. The law says that each tyre must have a tread depth of at least 1.6 mm, but for safe winter motoring this should be at least 3 mm, to help them deal properly with wet and potentially icy roads. Check them for damage and regularly check the tyre pressures to keep them in tip top condition (ideally at least fortnightly). If you drive regularly during the winter it may even be worth considering winter tyres, which perform considerably better when temperatures drop below 5 degrees

Low sunlight and icy mornings will quickly highlight any issues with your windscreen, so it's essential to look after it. Changes in temperature can make chips turn swiftly into cracks, so get any chips repaired as soon as possible to save you the cost of a windscreen excess. Most insurers will cover the cost of a chip repair, so don’t wait until it cracks!

Also take the opportunity to check the rubber on your windscreen wipers, and replace them if they skip across or smear your windscreen. It's important to keep your screen wash topped up too, and kept at the right concentration to stop it freezing during winter. Sudden changes in temperature can damage your windscreen, so avoid defrosting your icy windscreen with boiling hot water.

Essential Checks
It's not just tyres and batteries that need to be up to scratch for winter. Shorter days and poorer weather make your lights a valuable asset, so have a walk round your car and check that they all work, including asking someone to put their foot on the brake pedal so you can check all your brake lights are in working order. Keep all your lights clean too, because a layer of dirt will have a serious effect on brightness. Your antifreeze is also worth checking out, to make sure the engine coolant won't freeze.

What to Carry
It's helpful to stock up with a few essentials in your car as well, in case you get caught out in bad weather or get stuck in a massive queue after an accident on the road ahead. Without filling your boot entirely, think about adding some of these to your inventory to help keep you safe in the event of an emergency:

A warm jacket or blanket
Spare screen-wash
De-icer and an ice scraper
A torch
A First Aid Kit and High Visibility Vest
A mobile phone charger, power pack and/or a spare mobile phone
Breakdown service/accident recovery details

Making these simple checks will take the stress and worry out of winter motoring. Don't forget, if you need any help checking or changing your tyres, battery or antifreeze, or just want your car serviced to ensure it's ready to battle the winter, our service centre here at Smallbone and Son Cars is happy to help. For more information call us on 0121 472 7139.