Things to think about before you hit the road this winter

So you’ve put the barbecue back in the garage, cleared the leaves from gutters and are settling in for the winter. But have you overlooked your car? The worsening weather can bring new challenges for your car, especially if you have a chip in your windscreen or haven’t checked your coolant levels for a while. Here are some top tips to make sure your car’s ready for whatever the weather might bring this winter.

Give your car a winter health-check

Getting a car service can often be one of those ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ tasks, and many of us have fallen out of the practice of checking fluid levels and tyre pressure ourselves. But cold and wet weather can be brutal on your car, so it’s better to do these things ahead of time than in the depths of winter.

Most manufacturers recommend getting your car serviced every year, or every 12,000 miles, depending on which you reach first, so if you’re overdue then now’s the time to get it booked in. Even if you’ve had your car serviced quite recently, it’s still a great idea to do some pre-winter checks to make sure you’re all set for the season.

Familiarise yourself with where your oil, coolant, screen wash and brake fluid reservoirs are – this should be identified in your car’s manual – and check the levels to make sure they’re at the required amounts.

This is the time of year when your tyres need to be at their very best to deal with greasy leaves and wet roads, so be sure to check their tread and pressure. The legal requirement for tyre tread depth is 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tyre, however 3mm is recommended by tyre and safety experts – there can be as much as 44% difference in wet braking distance between a tyre worn to 3mm and one worn to 1.6mm1.


Check your windscreen for cracks and chips

If you’ve got a chip in your windscreen that you’ve been optimistically ignoring, it’s never too soon to think about a repair. When water gets into the chip and then freezes, it expands, and can make the chip worse. You could also be more likely to get a chip in autumn and winter too, as wind and rain cause there to be more debris on the roads. A chip or crack bigger than 10cm that’s in the driver’s line of vision is actually an MOT failure2, so these should definitely be repaired.

Small chips and cracks can turn into bigger problems such as more expensive repairs, or even a full windscreen replacement, so getting them repaired quickly and easily first can save you time and hassle in the long run. Repairing also potentially reduces the impact on the environment, by using less materials and avoiding the amount of waste going to landfill by removing windscreens3.

If you’re an esure customer with fully comprehensive insurance, you have windscreen cover, and our suppliers Autoglass can handle the repair for you. Book your repair at a time and place that suits you, or visit one of their repair centres, and the repair could take as little as 30 minutes4. If you need to make a claim, you can do this in your Account, or by calling 0800 085 8459.

As well as checking your windscreen itself, replace ill-fitting or damaged wipers, which can smear or damage your screen. Make sure you have ‘all-season’ or winter washer fluid topped up, to stop the water from freezing.

Plan ahead and be prepared

Make sure you leave enough time for your journey in poor weather so you can drive appropriately for the conditions, bearing in mind lower speed restrictions may be in place on motorways. If making a journey after a storm you should also consider diversions due to floods or fallen trees and branches. When the cold and damp weather really hits, make sure to leave time to de-fog or de-ice your car properly too.

Pack a blanket, warm clothes, rainproof coat or poncho, torch, first-aid kit, warning triangle and high-visibility vest in your boot. This may feel like overkill now, but you’ll be extremely glad of it if you ever break down in the cold and wet. Having something to drink and some food on board is a good idea too – just make sure anything you pack has a long expiry date.


De-ice your car safely

If your windows are frosted up, don’t use just-boiled water as it can crack the glass (and if it’s really cold it’ll just refreeze anyway), and avoid using makeshift scrapers like credit cards as they can scratch the glass. Use de-icer spray and an ice scraper, then let the car’s heating system do the rest.

And while a lot of us have our engine running while we get out and scrape the ice off the windscreen, be careful not to leave your car unattended as this could give someone the opportunity to jump in and drive off, making any claim unlikely to be accepted.

Cold weather tips for electric vehicles

If you own or drive an electric vehicle the cold weather can affect the battery and performance, so it’s worth taking a little extra care of it at this time of year. The cold weather can impact the effectiveness of the battery which can in turn reduce your range, so take the time to charge the battery to an appropriate level before starting your journey. If you’re heading on a longer trip, make sure to plan in charging stops along the way, so you don’t run low on power. Some cars have an eco-mode you can use to get more from the range.

If your EV has ‘preconditioning’, you can use this to set the car to warm up whilst charging, so no battery power is used. However, never leave the car unattended if it’s unlocked while you’re doing this. Try and keep your battery above 20% charge whenever possible, and avoid letting it run down completely – these things will help keep it in the best possible condition5.

We hope these tips help you feel better prepared for a smooth ride with your car this winter. Don’t forget, if you need to check your cover, or need to make a claim should the worst happen, you can do this in your Account.

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