Preparing your car for winter

Getting up in the morning to find that your car wonít start or that the heating has broken down are just a few of the joys you may have to look forward to over the winter months.

Many cars fail to perform at their best during the winter months and, much like humans, they may need some serious convincing to get moving in the morning when itís dark and cold.

However, there are many steps you can take to prepare your car for winter. This involves making sure your vehicle is well maintained, always carrying  an emergency kit in the boot and checking the road weather conditions before travelling.

Winter tyres

It is definitely advisable to ensure that the tyres on your vehicle are safe and secure. Drivers could see their motor insurance claims denied and face fines of up to £10,000 by failing to do so. The latest research from a price comparison website found that 57% of drivers are not aware what the correct tread depth for their tyres is. The ideal figure is 1.6 mm. A staggering 87.4% of people do not change their tyres for the winter weather. Furthermore, 1.4% of people donít even realise that their tyres need air at all. 

It is advisable to check tyre pressure and adjust it at least once a month as uneven inflation levels affect driving quality and makes the tyres wear unevenly. Worn down tyres are more likely to cause a sliding accident and lower the traction of your car. It is recommended that your tyres are replaced before the tread becomes less than 1.6mm.

Breakdown cover

If the winter weather for 2011 will be anything similar to the harsh snow and ice conditions experienced in the last few years, it could be well worth investing in breakdown cover. Whilst your standard insurance policy may cover the cost of claims you make, should you be involved in an accident you might not be covered for breakdown purposes. This is an additional feature, which is often purchased separately, depending on your car insurer. Research from MORE TH>N found that motorists are 50% more likely to break down during the first three months of the year.

What you are covered for in a breakdown policy differs depending on which provider you are with. Some features you may regard as ëstandardí could be an additional extra, which will mean an additional fee is required.

It is worth shopping around to find the best breakdown cover available.

Compare breakdown cover with Money Expert.

Car maintenance 

You should be checking you carís oil and water levels regularly, especially if it is in between services. Check that the oil has the right viscosity for your vehicle and remember that oil tends to get thicker during the colder months. The thicker the oil, the less effective it will be in lubricating your engine.

It is also worth checking the battery connections and water level. If your battery is more than three years old it may be worth having a close look at it, the last thing you want during the winter is to have to jump start the car every morning.  

The antifreeze mixtures also need to be the correct consistency so that your car is more reliable. It should be comprised of a 50/50 mixture of anti freeze and water in your radiator. You can often get this tested at your local garage or purchase an antifreeze tester to do it yourself. If the mixture is not right, it is vital that you drain the entire radiator and refill it correctly. Antifreeze can be deposited down the drain.

Vehicle Warranty

Car warranties typically last for three years or up to a certain mileage when purchased from a manufacturer. When the warranty ends, the manufacturer will usually offer to extend the warranty providing there is no gap in the coverage.

However, if you have purchased a car second-hand, you can buy car warranties from a third party. During the winter it is vital to make sure that your warranty is up to date.
 
Car warranties will cover the cost of repairs, including parts and labour rates, should anything go wrong with the car during the winter.

Prices vary significantly and so it could be worth shopping around for the best deal. It may also be advisable to consider what you want covered in your warranty. Parts such as breaks and tyres are often not covered, so it may also be worth getting these checked independently.

Compare car warranty with Money Expert.

Car insurance

Regardless of the weather, it is important to check what you are covered for on your car insurance policy. Insurers often see a surge in claims during the winter months due to road accidents. AXA, for example, saw an 85% increase in single vehicle accidents last year, as the harsh road conditions took their toll on UK drivers.

Compare car insurance with Money Expert.

 

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