Top 10 winter car checks

Top 10 winter car checks

What should you do to make sure your car is ready for the cold weather ahead? Here are our top 10 checks to keep your car in good health through winter.

It’s a good idea to stay on top of the maintenance of your car whatever the season, but it’s particularly important to make sure your car is in good condition in winter. Cold weather puts more of a strain on cars and it’s also wise to prepare for the chill by having all the right equipment to tackle winter driving, and to keep you safer in emergency situations. 

With the current lockdown restrictions meaning that many of us aren’t driving our cars as regularly, it’s even more crucial that you look after your car properly to save you both money and inconvenience in the long run. 

Here are our 10 top checks to help you and your car through cold winter weather.

1. Make sure your car is serviced

If you know your car is likely to be due for a service during the winter months, it’s a good idea to get it booked in and done before the cold weather hits. Winter weather is tough on cars, but a lot of potential problems and breakdowns can be avoided with regular maintenance.

Many garages also offer free or discounted winter car checks. These are a little bit like mini services to make sure your car’s in good working order for winter driving. If your car’s not due a regularly scheduled checkup, even a mini one is worth considering when the temperatures drop.

You should also check that your car’s MOT is up to date. The checks carried out during these tests are designed to make sure your car is as safe and roadworthy as it should be.

Cazoo Service Centres are open for essential servicing, MOTs and repairs for those who need to keep moving throughout winter. We offer everything from servicing, MOT tests and diagnostics to brake repairs. You get a 3-month or 3000-mile warranty on any work we carry out.

2. Check your tyres

Tyres are incredibly important – they are the only part of your car that actually makes contact with the road, after all – so it’s vital to make sure they are in good condition.

You should check that all your car’s tyres have plenty of tread depth (how deep the grooves go in the tyres’ surface). All Cazoo cars are sold with tyres that have a minimum tread depth of 2.5mm across at least 80% of the tyre’s width. This is well above the legal limit of 1.6mm.

The pressure in your tyres is important, too, so you should check this on a regular basis. Your owner’s handbook will tell you what amount of pressure is right for your car.

Another check you should regularly carry out on the tyres is a visual inspection. Look carefully to spot any cuts or other blemishes in the rubber.  Look for any foreign bodies like nails or bits of glass. Check for areas where the rubber is cracked or worn out.

3. Check fluid levels

Your engine needs coolant for the radiator system, and oil for the engine in order to run properly. If these levels are low, your car should display a warning light to let you know. 

But you shouldn’t allow your car to get to this point because damage can be done to the engine and cooling system before the fluid levels drop to the point where a warning light will come on. Instead, get into the habit of checking your car’s oil and coolant levels on a regular basis without waiting to see that warning light.

4. Look after the battery

Colder weather combined with increased use of your car’s heaters and lights can put a big strain on a battery, so it’s worth getting the condition of your battery checked and replacing it  if necessary.

As a precaution, it could also be worth investing in a portable jump-start pack to reduce the risk of your being stranded with a drained battery.

If your car is going to sit unused for long periods during poor weather or lockdown restrictions, this can leave its battery low on charge. A drive of at least 30 minutes should boost the charge to a healthier level. If this isn’t possible due to lockdown restrictions you could think about purchasing a trickle-charger, which will top up the battery and help maintain its condition.

5. Keep your windscreen clear

Wind, rain, salt, snow and general grime means your car windscreen is often dirtier in winter than at any other time of year. To clear your windscreen effectively you need to make sure there’s plenty of life in the blades of your wipers. If the rubber strips are worn too low, the wipers won’t clear water effectively, leaving streaks that make it hard to see clearly ahead.

During the winter you should make sure that you regularly top up your windscreen’s washer fluid so that you don’t run out while on the road. You should always use good-quality washer fluid (you can buy this as a concentrated fluid or as a ready-mixed bottle) instead of just water, which can freeze if it’s very cold.

6. Keep your lights and number plates clean

It’s easy to let road grime, salt and dirt build up on your car during winter, but even if you don’t give the entire car a wash it's crucial that you at least keep your lights and number plates clear and visible at all times.

Dirty headlights will stop you seeing things as clearly at night or in bad weather and you’ll be less visible to other road users too. Your car’s number plates also need to be kept clean and legible. If they’re not readable by police or automatic camera systems you could be fined up to £1,000.

7. Check your brakes

Being able to stop efficiently is always important and never more so than in winter, when road conditions are more likely to be slippery from rain or ice. 

This is why you need to make sure your brakes are in good condition. To an extent, you can do this with a visual inspection. Have a look behind the wheels at the brake discs: If there’s any scoring or signs of corrosion then you might need to consider replacing your discs or pads.

Really, though, checking the condition of the brakes is best done by a professional mechanic.

8. Keep some essentials in your car

With the possibility of unpredictable wintry weather, it’s a good idea to have a box or a bag of emergency equipment in your car. This should include a blanket, a torch, a shovel, a basic first-aid kit, an ice scraper and de-icer and a high-visibility vest.

It’s also worth storing some long-lasting food and drink supplies, in case you are stranded and help can’t reach you quickly. Making sure you always have a well-charged mobile phone and a charging lead with you is a sensible precaution, too.

9. Don’t forget to wash!

It’s a very satisfying feeling to have a clean car, but there’s a practical reason for keeping your car clean, too – dirt is bad for it. 

The salt spread on winter roads is quite corrosive and can damage your car’s bodywork, but even regular road grime and mud can cause the onset of corrosion. This is especially true in rural areas, so it’s worth braving the cold and getting busy with a bucket and sponge, or visiting your local car wash.

10. Make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel

It’s a good idea to keep at least a quarter of a tank of fuel in your car so you have a reserve in case there isn’t a petrol station nearby if you start to run low. This is a wise practice at any time of year, but especially so in winter when there’s a possibility of getting stuck because of bad weather. If that happens you’ll want to be able to keep the engine running to keep the heater on and keep your phone fully charged.

Cazoo Service Centres provide a great way to keep your car healthy over winter, offering a range of services including MOTs, servicing and repairs whether or not you bought your car through Cazoo. We also offer a free safety check, inspecting the tyres, fluid levels, lights and brakes to make sure that everything is in full working order. To request a booking, simply choose your nearest Service Centre and enter your car registration number.

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