Insider's Guides > Winter

Car Maintenance



Winter puts extra strain on a car, and any minor problems which have been hiding are likely to become more obvious and cause trouble once winter gets a grip. In cold conditions, it takes more power to start the engine, and you?ll be using the heater and demister more often - this takes its toll on the battery.

1 Check the coolant mixture. If the coolant (antifreeze and water) freezes, it could wreck 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.

2 Check the hoses. Look for signs of damage or leaks, and have any problem hoses renewed. It is sometime possible to repair a leaking hose, but it is always best to replace a suspect hose before a leak develops.

3 Check the drivebelt(s). Look for damage, and check the tension of the belt(s). Refer to your Haynes manual for details.

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, fit a new one before winter starts. Refer to your Haynes manual for details of how to check a battery.

5 Check wipers & washers. You'll use them 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. Top up or renew if necessary.

7 Check lights and indicators. Make sure that they work properly, and replace any blown bulbs.

Haynes Hints - Driving in wintry conditions

  • If you're going to drive in severe cold, or snowy and icy conditions, make sure you're properly equipped The weather can worsen very quickly in winter, so even if it looks OK when you set off, be prepared!
  • When driving on slippery roads, drive slowly, smoothly and gently - accelerate gently, steer gently and brake gently.
  • Tell someone where you're going, what route you're taking and what time you're expecting to arrive at your destination.
  • Make sure you have a full tank of fuel - this will allow you to keep the engine running for warmth (through the heating system), without fear of running out of fuel, if you get delayed or stuck.
  • Carry warm clothes and blankets to keep you warm if you get stuck. A bar of chocolate could also come in handy.
  • Carry de-icer fluid, a scraper, jump leads and a tow rope.
  • Pack some pieces of old sacking, or similar material, which you can place under the wheels to give better traction if you get stuck.
  • Pack a shovel, in case you need to dig yourself out of trouble.
  • Use snow chains or studded tyres. In some areas, it's compulsory to use snow chains or studded tyres on certain roads (or even all roads!) - note, however, that it may also be compulsory to remove them again when you reach roads which are unaffected by ice or snow (this applies to many alpine roads at certain times of the year).