Winter Care - Vehicle Maintenance


Antifreeze. It costs a matter of pennies. But a cracked engine block? That will set you back hundreds of pounds to repair. Most modern cars use long-life antifreeze and it is important that car owners don’t mix this with other types as this can cause a damaging sludge to develop in the engine. If in doubt as to which anti-freeze best suits your car, take it to a dealer to save further problems down the line. Remember to change glycol-based anti-freeze every two years.

During harsh winter months, it is essential to use a mix of half anti-freeze, half water in the cooling system. This ensures maximum protection down to -34 degrees centigrade. Without it, you could incur high costs to repair severe engine damage.

If you find the fan belt makes a continuous squealing sound when the engine is started, it is a sign that the water pump is frozen. The cylinder block could also be frozen to you must stop the engine immediately and allow it to thaw out. It may take several days to let this happen naturally so the other alternative would be to take it to a heated garage.

More commonly, the most likely thing to freeze is the radiator. The car will begin to overheat within a few miles because the coolant is unable to flow and circulate efficiently. The car must be stopped and the necessary time should be allowed to let it thaw.


Batteries and cables

Winter takes it’s toll on batteries, which is why many of us lift the bonnet and stare in dismay at the culprit of many a breakdown right by the roadside in the freezing cold. The sad fact is, so many drivers forgo this one thing which is ironically one of the easier things on the pre-winter checklist for your car.

To prevent you being stranded for the sake of not performing a brief check, follow the recommended procedure and remember, you need to perform proper and regular maintenance. This is broken by into three simple steps:

1) Cleaning the cables

Dirty and damp surfaces may result in continuous leakage currents flowing from terminal to terminal. Cold starting capabilities will reduce over a period of time and that is exactly what we need to avoid for the winter! First and foremost, remove the cables from the battery starting with the negative. Clean them with a mixture you can make at home made from one tablespoon of baking soda mixed with a cup of water. Clean with a wire brush using this mixture and use this same mixture to clean the top of the battery. You should use a small paintbrush to apply this solution where needed.

2) Lubricate

Dig out your supply of Petroleum Jelly and place a small amount on each post to keep your cables clean and free from corrosion that bit longer. Its handy for helping the cables slip right back into the battery too. Replace the cables, positive first.

3) Check acid levels and connection

Take a flat head screwdriver and gently lift off the cell tops. If some of the cells are not entirely full, you can use just regular water from the tap but distilled water from petrol stations is a far better option to keep the battery in peak condition. You can pop into a local parts store and have them perform a battery load test which will indicate any signs of imminent weakening. While there, pick up a battery charger if you don’t already have one. You can give it an extra boost overnight and could save you from standing around on a brutally cold winter morning.

Finally, when returning the battery to it’s rightful place, check that the battery hold down bar is firmly in place as well as the connection between the cable and posts. Not all cars have (or need) a hold down bar but if yours comes with one, you need to put it back correctly in its original place.



These must be checked for optimum condition, pressure and tread depth regularly but especially so for wintertime. Tread should absolutely exceed 2mm. Reducing tyre pressure does not result in more grip as some believe. It simply reduces stability.

Snow chains are rarely necessary unless you live in extremely remote conditions as these days roads and pathways tend to be cleared out regularly. So few people really know how to fit them properly. But, if you know you’ll be driving through somewhere remote and possibly heavily snowed in, it may be worth taking some in the boot along with a jack and a wheel brace if you know how to change a wheel, that is.

Make life easier by considering the move to winter or all season tyres which don a higher silicone content in the tread, thus preventing hardening at lower temperatures and ultimately giving better grip in cold wet conditions.



Take the time to your number plates. Bad weather comes with grit, muddy water and dirt that can cause illegibility and therefore get you a fine. Clean your lights and indicators, it can make a bigger difference that you know. Whilst paying attention to that area, make sure the lights are aimed correctly. You must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced. You can also use front or back fog lights but these must be switched off when visibility improves as they can dazzle other road users and obscure your brake lights.

Keep your windscreen in optimum condition for visibility. Keep the screen wash topped up and use a proper additive at the right concentration. Washing up liquid will foam up, cause streaks and more importantly, it doesn’t have the same low freezing point.

To keep windows from misting up, soak a cloth in pure washing up liquid then let it dry. Now wipe the cloth on the inside of the windows and it will stop them misting up. Remember, the air conditioner is not just for hot sunny days, use it in the winter to help dry the air.

Never, ever use hot water on your windscreen. You may not have suffered any damage to you glass yet by doing so, but hot water can crack the windscreen and will refreeze as soon as it cools. Use recommended de-icers and a scraper.



Grit and salt and all sorts will be causing damage to your car during the winter. Get some preventative maintenance on the go before the gruelling cold swoops in. Wash the underside of your car during before and after the winter season. It will wash off the grit and salt that is used to melt ice off the roads.

Make sure all drain holes around the hood and boot are clear. These holes allow water to exit ledges and prevent rust. Water will sneak in where you least expect it and will eventually ruin your car with rust so check your weather stripping for openings and rips if you haven’t checked all year.

Wax you car! It will keep paint protected from the elements.


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