Winter puts extra strain on a car, and any minor problems which might not have been seen in the summer months are likely to become more obvious and cause trouble once winter starts. When it is cold it takes more power to start the engine, the heater and demister will be used more often - this takes its toll on the battery.
Below is a guide as to what you should check in order to prepare your car for the winter.
1. Check your coolant level and if the coolant (antifreeze and water) freezes, it could seriously damage your engine. A garage can check the coolant for you, or you can buy a simple and inexpensive coolant tester. Except in an emergency, never fill your cooling system with plain water, even in summer - antifreeze stops corrosion inside the engine as well as protecting against the cold. On older cars a 50/50 mix is recommended for winter conditions.
2. Check the hoses, look for signs of damage or leaks, and have any problem hoses renewed. If in doubt change the hose or it will more than likely cause you problems. Hose kits are readily available for most models and do not cost very much.
3. Check the drive belt(s) look for damage, and check the tension of the belt(s). Refer to your manual for details. An incorrectly tensioned belt will cause problems especially in winter when more strain is put on the battery and alternator to provide extra power for heaters, demisters etc.
4. Check the battery, battery failure is the most common source of trouble in winter. Check that the battery is in good condition, then clean the battery lead connections, and make sure they’re tight. If the battery shows signs that it might be getting towards the end of its life then fit a new one before winter starts. Refer to your manual for details of how to check a battery. Most garages will be able to do a battery test for you.
5. Check wipers & washers they are used a lot more in winter. Make sure the wiper blades are in good condition (new ones aren’t expensive, so it’s well worth renewing them at the start of every winter anyway). Check the windscreen (and tailgate, if you have one) washer system. Make sure the washer jets aren’t blocked, and that they spray onto the screen, not over the top of the roof or onto the bonnet! Always keep the washer fluid topped up.
6. Check all fluids and filters and top up or renew if necessary. If possible give the car either a full or half service before the winter starts and you should have no problems getting through it.
7. Check lights and indicators make sure that they work properly, and replace any blown bulbs. In winter with all the road dirt and salt it is important to keep you lights clean, wash them at least once a week and if you do a lot of miles then even more frequently.
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