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Winter Car Maintenance Tips

Photo of car driving on snow

Winter Car Maintenance Tips

The winter season can take a toll on cars hence it is important to be aware of cold-weather car maintenance. Doing so will make your driving experience a lot safer, plus it will minimize vehicle downtime. The following are some important winter car maintenance tips to follow:

Winter Car Maintenance

To ensure that your car functions well during the winter, you need to take care of the following:

Winter tyre changes and checks

The roads in the winter tend to get slippier and this not only increases the chances of skidding but braking distances also increase. The first step is simply making sure your tyres are actually legal to be on the road. During winter months the legal minimum tyre tread depth is 3mm.

Investing in a set of purpose-built winter or snow tyres is a no-brainer if you live in a region where the temperature is lower than 7 degrees celsius. These adapt better to colder temperatures with their flexible rubber compounds and their aggressive tread patterns. They’ll do a better job of increasing your traction than the A/S ones you may currently have. As a bonus, some winter tyres are also oriented for usage on snow.

Also note:

  • Do not let air out of your tyres in order to get more grip. It doesn’t work and its very unsafe
  • Only use snow chains if there’s enough snow to stop the road from getting damaged

Tyre pressure

Maintaining your vehicle’s tyre pressure is crucial in order to prevent excessive wear and tear, and ensure a longer life for your tyres. It is a fact that your tyre pressure decreases during the winter as a result of the lower temperatures.

This is why you need to carry out a tyre pressure check every now and then to make sure that there’s enough air in each tyre, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Exterior protection

There’s a lot that can build up on your car’s exterior and be difficult to remove. Grime, sleet, and especially road salt are big nuisances. This is why it is recommended to use polymer wax which behaves as a barrier.

Also included in winter car maintenance is washing the car after a heavy snowstorm to get rid of any sort of snow that builds up in tougher spots. One of the reasons for this is to clear up your lights (to ensure maximum visibility) and your number plate. 

Fluid check

There are a number of different fluids in your car that need to be at their optimal levels throughout the year. However, you need to be especially careful during ice-cold winters as breakdowns can be dangerous if you have no help.

You need to ensure that you have the right engine oil in your car and that it is up to the mark. It is imperative that you opt for thinner oil so that your car doesn’t have trouble starting in lower temperatures. Look through your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the best recommendation.

Then there’s the windshield wiper fluid, which also gains importance during the winter. You’ll be using your wipers a lot more if your area has snowstorms and this will deplete the washer fluid quicker.

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Another key fluid that needs to be in check is the coolant. The components of your car’s cooling system can freeze up which is why you should use antifreeze.

Battery health checks

Car batteries tend to die out more easily in the winter. Research indicates that dead batteries are one of the biggest causes of vehicle breakdowns during the wintertime. As a result, it is key that your battery is in good condition.

You need to check your battery fluid levels routinely. Also, if your car has a slower starting time, it is an indicator that there’s something wrong with the battery system. You should then have it diagnosed by a professional.

Demisting your car windows

Science tells us that your car windscreen mists up due to water vapour in the atmosphere that arises when your body and breath heats up the air inside the cabin, increasing the amount of moisture it can hold. When this comes into contact with your windscreen, it cools and condenses, forming a 'mist'.

And how do you solve this? By taking one of these steps:

  1. Direct your air-con at the windows. Start it off cool, then gradually increase the temperature
  2. If you don’t have access to air-con, then roll down the windows
  3. If your car has demister buttons, use them. What they do is automatically readjust the ventilation system so that it’s focused on demisting, rather than having to adjust the air-con manually

Winter car essentials

Along with following the aforementioned winter vehicle maintenance tips, you need to carry the following essentials with you:

  • Tow rope
  • Torch
  • Carpet – to put underneath your tyres in case you get stuck
  • First aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Jumper cables
  • Ice scraper

Beware of black ice

Black ice tops the danger chart when it comes to winter driving. Whenever temperatures near zero, make sure to drop your speed and drive smoothly, avoiding any sudden steering, braking or acceleration. Avoid unsettling the car and skidding by braking in a straight line, slowly and progressively. If you do end up locking the brakes, let go of the brake pedal and steer into the skid to regain control. Only drive in black ice-type conditions when you really have to.

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