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As temperatures start to fall there is a real risk that we may soon see the first snow of Winter 2021 writes Geraldine Herbert

While we tend to escape any serious snowfall this makes us even more vulnerable to sudden extreme changes in temperature. Come the snow and ice, we slide, slither and bump our way around and very often our cars are as unprepared for winter as we are.

A properly maintained car can weather winter temperatures. A pre-winter service, where tyres, battery, wiper blades and anti-freeze would all be checked, is a good idea. But if your budget does not stretch to this a few simple checks on a regular basis would go a long way to preventing breakdowns.

Battery

It’s freezing cold, you’re running late, you sit down behind the wheel and your car won’t start. Unfortunately, the arrival of winter brings multiple demands on a car’s battery with additional strain from heated seats to climate control.

Battery failure is one of the most common causes of breakdown and despite what people may think they don’t actually last forever. Replacing them can save you a lot of time and inconvenience. Cold temperatures reduce the capacity of any battery and if it is more than three years old it is worth having it checked. If your battery is reaching the end of its life, usually indicated by sluggish starting, then it’s time to think about a new one.

Coolant

Ensure coolant is topped up regularly as overheating is a common cause of breakdown. Don’t forget to top up the windscreen washer fluid, ensuring it contains an anti-freeze agent. Check the vehicle handbook for the recommended ratio.

Fuel

Don’t let the fuel levels drop too much, so fill up before you set off on a long journey. If you do get stuck at least you’ll be able to stay warm.

Lights

Check that all the light bulbs are working and that headlights are clean and aimed correctly. Lights should be cleaned regularly, especially when roads are salted.

Wipers

Wiper blades should be replaced regularly, so check them out as winter approaches for wear and tear.

Tyres

Always ensure that your tyres are properly inflated to ensure the best possible traction with the road. Should you consider switching to winter tyres? While they are far superior on snow and ice than regular tyres, they’re designed to work when temperatures are below 7C. Daytime temperatures in Ireland during winter are usually above this but, if you are on the road regularly very early in the morning and very late at night when temperatures are much lower, then they may well be worth the investment. More importantly, however, you should consider the condition of your regular tyres, while 1.6mm is the legal limit, a tread depth of 3mm is recommended for winter motoring and certainly, no less than 2mm is necessary. Check the spare tyre also.

Windows

Clean windows are essential for safe driving. On frosty mornings don’t use boiling water on your car windows instead stock up on de-icer and a plastic scraper.

Emergency pack

During the winter months, you should prepare a pack that can be stored in the boot. Some of the items you should include are a torch; spare batteries and bulbs; screen scraper/de-icer; jump leads; warning triangle; first-aid kit; mobile phone; warm blankets; extra water; shovel (to clear snow if necessary) and road maps.

Locks

Keep a can of de-icer or WD-40 on hand to defreeze frozen locks. Do not pour hot water on the frozen lock as this will only increase the amount of water inside the lock and result in future frozen locks. Never force the key to turn a frozen car lock.

Driving

When you are on the road adapt your driving style to take account of the state of the road. Avoid sudden acceleration or braking which could result in skidding on icy or snowy roads, as stopping distances are 10 times longer in ice and snow. And, remember above all, check the weather forecast and postpone your journey if bad weather is predicted.

 

 

About the Author

Contributing Editor and Motoring Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen.ie. Geraldine Herbert is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK) and to RTÉ, Newstalk, TodayFM and BBC Radio. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1.

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