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Knowing how to prepare your car for the winter can present various challenges to UK drivers. Did you know that vehicles are 42% less likely to start in the winter? Furthermore, 21% of all crashes between December and March in the UK are linked to seasonal motoring conditions.

As providers of specialist private car insurance, we have compiled this seasonal guide packed with key tips and useful information to help keep you on the move during the winter season.

Winter car essentials

We understand the challenges drivers could face during the winter months. If your car will not start you do not want to be stuck outside your house or stranded by the roadside. This is especially true if it makes you late for work or taking your children to school. People drive slower in icy conditions and this makes planning your journey more of a necessity. Part of this preparation could include a winter car check. The vehicle checks and car accessories you can take before each journey include:

Antifreeze

If you have just water in your radiator then you potentially risk damaging it and the engine. If this is not remedied, the water in the radiator expands and cracks the filaments and can lead to leakages. This can result in overheating of the engine and other complications. To avoid potential mechanical fees ensure you add the correct mix of water and antifreeze in your vehicle. This is usually around the ratio of 50:50 water to antifreeze, or 60:40. If you are in any doubt refer to your vehicle manual or consult product information available on the label.

Wiper blades

If you experience poor visibility through your windscreen this can often be caused by salt on the roads. The key things to look out for on your wiper blade rubber are tears or pitting and loss of contact with the windscreen surface. If the rubber has a rough feel down the blade, then they may need to be replaced. This can be done easily with replacement blades available online and at vehicle accessory stores. You can then replace them yourself by following the instructions or pay a mechanic to change them over for you.

Windscreen washer fluid

Make sure to equip your vehicle with winter windscreen fluid, as this contains more anti-freeze. It will reduce the risk of freezing when you are spraying it to clean off road salt. If your windscreen fluid freezes you could find yourself with reduced visibility and increased risk of incidents during icy conditions. Also, inspect washer fluid jets often by regularly checking that the washer fluid is firing properly and at the correct pressure. Clogged pipes and low fluid levels can lead to burned motors and blown fuses which increase maintenance costs.

Replacement bulbs

With shorter days and longer nights in winter, we find ourselves driving more often in the dark. It is therefore vitally important to check your light bulbs function correctly on a regular basis. If you need to source a replacement bulb, you can identify the correct type using the Osram Vehicle Light App. Using this app could help you detect the bulb you need to repair headlights, brake lights, reversing lights and indicators in your vehicle with ease.

Oil levels

Low oil levels, especially in winter, can lead to a decline in the performance of your vehicle’s engine. To avoid putting undue strain on your vehicle, allow both the engine and oil to warm up sufficiently to ensure optimal performance. When checking oil levels ensure that the engine is topped up to the mid-range on the oil dipstick level. You can typically find the dipstick by looking for the brightly coloured end of a stick. If you are unsure where to locate your dipstick then refer to your vehicle manual.

Battery

With the increased load on the battery with the heaters, lights, de-misters, and windscreen wipers, it is very important to ensure your battery is up to the task. As the battery works harder during the winter months it can become more depleted over time. If the vehicle is struggling to start when you switch on the engine, then this could be a sign that you need a new battery. If in doubt, take your car to a garage for the battery to be checked.

Tyres

Car tyres need to be checked for bald patches, excessive wearing, and bulges throughout the year. In addition to this you also need to be on the lookout for any nails or sharp objects. Any of these characteristics can lead to accidents so get them replaced if they are showing signs of wear and tear. Check your tyre pressure monthly because under-inflated tyres increase your vehicle’s fuel consumption. In addition, this also puts unnecessary strain on the engine and can lead to poor brake performance. A local garage can set tyre PSI (pounds per square inch) and help to identify any immediate or slow punctures that may need attention in the future.

Winter car service

The winter takes its toll on your vehicle. You could reduce this risk by getting your car regularly and thoroughly serviced. Ideally, do this before winter to ensure you can face any potential challenges the season may present. The key areas to pay attention to include:

  • Alternator/alternator belt replacement
  • Wing mirror glass
  • Starter motor
  • Coil spring
  • Battery

Each of these are vital to the efficient performance of your vehicle and are the most likely to fail during winter if they are not regularly maintained.

Winter car kit

The reason for owning a winter car kit is that you want to be as equipped as possible should something go wrong. You could be on a journey through a rural area like the Cotswolds or travelling with children on board. In situations like this, it pays to prepare in advance. If the worst should happen and you must pull over to the roadside you can begin resolving the situation as quickly as possible. With a winter car kit, you will have the tools to deal with the situation until assistance arrives. A few simple provisions can make all the difference and can include:

Jacket, gloves, blanket

These items prove advantageous if you are forced to walk to a phone or wait for a recovery vehicle in freezing temperatures.

High vis jacket/vest

This will reduce the risk of being unseen by fellow motorists. Check out which items are a legal requirement to travel in Europe online before planning any journey.

Torch

Can be useful if you need to assess repairs in the dark or fog. Wind up torches do not require replacement batteries, can be stored in the glove box, and forgotten about until needed.

Scraper

Always use a plastic ice scraper on your windscreen. Metal tools can create deep, irreparable scratches in your windscreen’s glass. Do not be tempted to use credit or debit cards either as they can easily snap leaving you without access to funds.

De-icer

This handy spray melts snow or ice so that it can be removed more easily.  It also works to keep your windscreen clear removing the risk of further impaired vision.

In-car charger or power bank

Keep your phone fully charged using a USB charger. These plug into your cigarette lighter or in-car USB port. Alternatively, keep a charged power bank in the glove compartment to revive a flat battery in an emergency.

Jump leads

If your battery is flat, contact a relative or friend for help or wait for breakdown assistance. Familiarise yourself with the jump start process or seek assistance from someone with experience. Incorrect usage can result in damage to the vehicles alternator.

Do not be caught with insufficient cover

As specialist insurance cover providers for over 40 years’ we can offer a wide range of competitive insurance policies that can be tailored to your needs. Do not run the risk of having insufficient cover for your car, click get a quote now for an instant online quotation.

Need breakdown cover?

If you are a new or existing Acorn customer, why not enjoy the peace of mind of having Acorn Insurance breakdown cover at your side. Cover includes:

  • Doorstep and roadside assistance
  • Vehicle recovery/onward transportation
  • Message relay to friends and family to advise of delays

Contact our friendly team now on 01704 339 000 who will be happy to help and answer any questions that you might have.

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