Winter checks - preparing you and your car for winter

The now infamous Beast From The East caused chaos in the county, cutting off villages and closing A roads, when it severely battered Lincolnshire and the East of England in February 2018. The blizzard conditions and drifting snow left many drivers stranded and unable to continue on their journeys. Of course, the best advice is not to travel in such severe conditions, but this isn't always possible, so the next best thing is to be as prepared as possible. 

 

Whether they are covered in snow drifts or a light layer of ice, sleet or slush, winter roads are unpredictable. Being well equipped will help you make the best of the bad weather and here we look at the best things to have in your winter car kit, as well as a handy checklist to get your car winter-ready.

 

The Essential Winter Car Kit

 

Phone charger - try to keep your mobile phone fully charged before setting out on a long journey, but always keep a phone charger in the car. You will need your phone if you are involved in an accident or need to call for help.

Phone Navigation apps - With phones becoming ever more important in our daily lives, they can also potentially save your life. Should you become stuck in a remote location there are many apps out there to help identify where you are, so as to direct the emergency services or friends/relatives to you. Apps such as ‘What3Words' have been developed for just such a purpose, breaking down the entire world into 3 metre square blocks - each with a unique, easy to remember reference. So if you were stranded at fabric.tweed.rivals you could be traced to that exact 3m location! The UK emergency services are trained to understand these references and it's been proven to help trigger faster response times.  

De-icer and Ice scraper/snow brush - always clear snow from your car before starting out and clear the entire car. This will avoid the snow from your roof flying off and hitting another vehicle. Even the smallest snow flurry can quickly cover a car in the time it takes to make a pit stop on a journey so keep on top of the scraping after a refreshment break.

Shovel - indispensable for clearing snow if you get stuck, or for clearing the road ahead. If boot space is at a premium, folding shovels are an option. 

Torch (with spare batteries) - with winter evenings drawing in as early as 4pm, a torch will help you to identify anything that needs attention, and will help other road users to see you.

Sand/salt/cat litter - if your car is stuck in the road, several handfuls of sand, salt or even cat litter, sprinkled in front of the tyres will help to create some traction. Storing it in an old plastic milk container is perfect to keep it contained and dry. The container also makes it easier to sprinkle onto the required areas.

Warm clothes/gloves/hat/blanket - shovelling snow off a stranded car will be easier if you're warm! And if you do find yourself stranded, winter temperatures drop rapidly, especially overnight. It won't be practical to keep the car heater running all the time so a blanket will help you to stay warm. 

Boots/ice grips for shoes - perfect if you need to walk to safety.

First aid kit - an essential all year but in the winter, when response times by emergency vehicles may be longer, basic first aid may make all the difference to someone injured, while waiting for help to arrive.

Jump leads - In winter, your battery is under a lot of extra load. With the car heater and lights on for longer periods your battery may suffer if you do lots of short journeys. if your battery dies, a jump start from a passing motorist will help start the engine. When stranded, your heater will not keep you warm if your battery has died.

Windscreen washer fluid/screenwash - maintain maximum visibility in a snow storm by ensuring your screen is clean. When adding screenwash, check the bottle for instructions for details of the proportion of screenwash per litre of water as this can vary depending on the time of year. Refer to your vehicle's handbook for the exact capacity of your screen wash bottle.

Hi-visibility vest - A legal requirement on the continent, a hi-vis vest is a remarkably cheap but potentially lifesaving garment that should be kept in your door pocket or glovebox. If you do have to leave your vehicle, a hi-vis garment will help oncoming vehicles see you after dark or in reduced visibility situations.

Water/snacks - essential if you face a long wait for help or become stranded overnight, to maintain energy levels and keep blood sugar levels up. Non-perishable protein cereal bars are a good choice, as is chocolate, with bottled water, or better a flask with something warm.

 

How to get your car winter-ready

 

Before the winter sets in, and before starting out on any long journey, follow our simple winter car checklist:

 

  • Check your tyre pressure and depth! The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm (new tyres are 8-9mm). The AA recommends a minimum of 4mm for winter tyres, for better grip and optimum steering and braking. Consider changing to a winter tyre, for added grip in less severe conditions than snow, such as slush or ice. 
  • If your car carries a spare tyre, make sure it is in good working order, with sufficient tread. Your spare tyre should be inflated to the correct pressure. The recommended pressure for your car's tyres can be found in the vehicle handbook, and, depending on the age of the car, inside the fuel cap or on the sill of the driver's door. 
  • Get your vehicle serviced before winter sets in - at Bush Tyres, our free winter check includes tyre pressure, tread depth, battery checks, wheel alignment and fluid levels. 
  • Check your battery. Batteries come under more strain in the winter as cold temperatures can reduce output while the batteries work harder to power lights, blowers and heaters. If you don't feel confident in checking your battery's charge yourself, pop in to your local Bush Tyres depot for a battery check.
  • Check fluid levels are topped up - coolant should be equal parts water and antifreeze. 
  • Make sure you maintain at least a quarter of a tank of fuel in case of delays.
  • Check oil levels regularly.
  • Regularly clean lights, indicators and reflectors and check for cracked lenses and dead bulbs.
  • Check your lights are working on full and half beam with fog lights and indicators all functioning well.
  • Get your brakes checked - pads, discs and brake fluid - they need to be responsive and efficient. 
  • Ensure fan belt and alternator drive belt is not worn or slipping. If you hear any squeaking or unusual noises coming from the belts, chances are they have become worn and need attention.
  • Make sure spark plug leads are clean and in good condition. Visible wear and cracks could be affecting the engine's efficiency.
  • Check windscreen wiper blades for any tears or grooves/notches by running your finger down the blade. Replace where necessary. Clean your windscreen inside and out.

 

To help you be winter ready, Bush Tyres offer a FREE winter check, including tyre pressure and depth, battery checks, wheel alignment and fluid levels. To take advantage of our free winter checks, call in to any of our depots today. 

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