13 Jul, 23

How should I prepare my vehicle for the cold weather?

We are progressively growing more optimistic for the changing of the seasons when the sun is replaced with snow blankets, as these past summers have grown ever steamier and toastier by the year. However, remember that not only your body needs to acclimatise to the cold weather; the air around us also becomes chilly. As the weather gets colder, you’ll need to make some preparations for your car as well.

Cold weather

It seems strange to imagine that a device like your car, which is typically believed to be durable and long-lasting, needs any kind of preparation for the impending cold weather at all. Does a little snow or a cold morning make a difference for your car? Yes, it does, and although newer cars are built to be much more robust to minor temperature changes, there are a few things you should check.

As we approach the end of the year and the air around us begins to condense into ice crystals, let’s go through a quick but essential checklist you should have ready for your automobile.

The Action Plan

Winter tyres You can choose to have your tyres in summer or winter, which are specifically tailored to different temperatures. As the name implies, winter tyres have been known to improve handling and braking as road surfaces get icy. This will considerably increase the safety of your car as well as its performance in cold weather.

  • Tyre Treads: If the treads of any tyre are fully bald or are soon to be, they won’t be able to offer any traction at all. They might affect your handling in addition to lengthening your stopping distance. Change their positions if necessary. By placing a 20-p coin, you can examine the treads’ condition. The grooves should be deep enough if you can’t see the outer band (around 2mm). 
  • Tyre Pressure: Continuing a common theme, regardless of whether you decide to use winter tyres, tyre pressure must be checked as frequently as possible. As soon as the temperature dips below 0°C, your tyres may lose some of their air pressure. Because the road conditions are so bad, having tyres that are properly inflated will give you the traction you require. 
  • Brakes: While you’re inspecting your tyres, you might as well consider your brakes. Winter puts a tremendous amount of strain on the brakes. This is made worse not just because you have to brake more frequently to slow down your automobile but also by the moisture and salt on the road. The brakes may begin to rust as a result of the latter two, which could eventually lead to issues. 
  • Battery: The temperature can have an impact on the chemistry of your car’s lithium-ion battery. Weather can have an impact on your car’s battery’s performance and even its capacity to carry out tasks like starting it. As a result, if your car’s battery is older than a year, it’s a good idea to check its condition in cold weather. 
  • Fluids: Your car uses a variety of fluids for cooling, lubrication, hydraulics, and other purposes. You must top them off or replace them before the winter. For instance, your coolant should ideally contain some antifreeze to maintain flow in cold weather and prevent your car’s cooling system from rusting. In the meantime, wintertime fuel or water contamination puts a lot of strain on motor oil. Window Wipers: If the air is becoming frosty, ice may start accumulating on your windscreen. Therefore, get that one looked into as well, along with braking fluids, gearbox fluid, power steering fluid, and so on. If your wipers are getting old, you might want to consider replacing them to maintain your vision. Even better, you might wish to spend money on specialised winter windscreen wipers that offer higher wiping capability to remove thick snow and ice and offer some protection against freezing.
  • Washer fluid: It is necessary since you’ll need to frequently clear your windscreen of snow, salt, and other debris that has been dumped on it. So keep in mind to top out the washer fluid in your car, and you might want to carry an extra bottle just in case. You might also want to think about investing in some special anti-freeze winter washing solutions.
  • Fuel: Prepare to refuel and fill the tanks as full as you can before it starts to snow. Condensation or moisture can accumulate inside the fuel tank due to cold weather, which could eventually lead to frozen fuel lines, fuel pump troubles, and other major problems. This can be readily avoided by adding fuel to all the space inside the tank and keeping it full.
  • Adding oil to your door locks, latches, hinges, window seals, and possibly even the bonnet, boot lid, or hatch tailgate is a good idea if you think it might become cold where you are. You’re usually looking for silicone-lubricating substances. You may stop these openable panels or parts of your car from freezing shut by spraying them all. 
  • A survival kit: It is essential if you get caught in a winter storm or face another emergency. Some people may argue that it’s not necessary. Keep it prepared and stuffed inside your automobile. Perishable food items, first aid supplies, winter clothing, gloves, and blankets are a few items to pack along with a spare tyre, battery jumper cables, a windscreen scraper, a shovel, matches, a lighter, a torch (with additional batteries), and a few more items to help you be ready in case something happens.

FAQs

Here are brief answers to the FAQs about preparing a car for cold weather:

How can I prepare my car for cold weather?

  • Check tyre condition and pressure.
  • Test the battery and replace it if necessary.
  • Ensure proper fluid levels (coolant, motor oil, washer fluid).
  • Check and replace worn-out windshield wipers.
  • Keep the fuel tank full to prevent condensation.

What are the essential steps to winterize my vehicle?

  • Install winter tyres or ensure good tread on all-season tyres.
  • Check and replace worn-out or damaged belts and hoses.
  • Inspect the heating system, including the defroster and heater core.
  • Check the operation of the vehicle’s lights and signals.
  • Carry a winter survival kit in case of emergencies.

Should I switch to winter tyres for cold weather?

Yes, winter tyres provide better traction on snow and ice compared to all-season tyres, enhancing safety and control in cold weather conditions.

How do I check the tyre tread depth, and why is it important?

Use a tyre tread depth gauge or the “20p coin test.” Insert a 20-cent coin into the tread grooves, and if you can’t see the outer band of the coin, the tyre tread is likely sufficient. Good tyre tread depth is crucial for maintaining traction and preventing hydroplaning on wet or snowy roads.

What should I do to maintain proper tyre pressure in the winter?

  • Monitor tyre pressure regularly using a pressure gauge.
  • Adjust tyre pressure according to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for cold weather conditions.
  • Remember that tyre pressure can decrease as the temperature drops, so it’s important to check and inflate the tyres as needed.

How can I ensure my brakes are ready for the cold weather?

  • Have your brakes inspected by a professional to check for wear and ensure proper functionality.
  • Consider replacing brake pads if they are worn.
  • Remove any rust or corrosion buildup on brake components.

How does cold weather affect car batteries, and how can I prevent battery issues?

  • Cold weather can reduce a battery’s effectiveness and make it harder to start the car.
  • Check the battery’s charge and voltage.
  • Keep the battery terminals clean and securely connected.
  • Consider using a battery charger or trickle charger during extended periods of cold weather.

What fluids should I check and top up before winter?

  • Coolant or antifreeze: ensure a proper mixture for cold-weather protection.
  • Motor oil: If the manufacturer recommends switching to a winter-grade oil, check the oil level and consider that.
  • Washer fluid: Use a winter-grade washer fluid that won’t freeze in cold temperatures.
  • Brake fluid, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid: check levels and top up if necessary.

Are there any specific considerations for windscreen wipers in cold weather?

  • Replace worn-out wiper blades with winter-specific or all-season wiper blades.
  • Lift the wiper arms off the windscreen when parking to prevent them from freezing to the glass.
  • Clear any ice or snow buildup on the wiper blades before operating them.

How do I choose the right washer fluid for winter conditions?

Select a washer fluid specifically designed for winter use, labelled “winter” or “de-icer.” Look for formulas that prevent freezing and offer improved cleaning performance in cold temperatures.

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