Simon Says ... Every Car Should have a Winter Health Check
Whilst we all turn up the heating and pile on the layers to get through the winter months, spare a thought for our cars, which left braving the snow, ice and rain. A little winter car care can help keep you on the road during the darker days ...
Our Group Aftersales Director, Simon, has been in the motor trade as a member of the Rivervale team for 30 years. Over that time, he has become an encyclopaedia of car knowledge and this month Simon says - make sure you get a winter healthcheck to reduce your chances of experiencing any motoring problems during the most testing months...
"At Rivervale we offer a Free Winter Healthcheck at our Bosch Service Centre which I wish more people would take advantage of. The winter months can be challenging for a vehicle, but a few quick checks could spot any problems before these become the reason you are stuck on the side of the road on a dark, cold evening. I will run through the essential checks that you should perform on a car before the winter months. Every check listed below is included in our free winter health check.
It is illegal to have a windscreen which does not provide you with a clear view of the road. During the summer months your wipers may have enjoyed a little time off, but during the winter months these will be in high demand. Make sure your wipers are not split or smearing the screen instead of clearing it.
EXTRA TIP - if you have a chip in your windscreen I would recommend you get it fixed as soon as possible. The cold weather can cause a chip to grow and grow until the screen cracks. Repairing a chip is likely to cost much less than replacing an entire windscreen.
NEVER - leave your wipers running if these are obstructed by ice on the windscreen in an effort to clear it more quickly ... you are likely to blow the fuse and need to replace it before you go anywhere.
2. Washer Fluid
Washer fluid is a recommended additive your windscreen requires during the winter months. In the summer you probably get away with using plain water. In the winter freezing temperatures mean freezing water, and frozen water cannot clear a windscreen. It is vital that a screen wash used will not freeze at 0 degrees. The freeze point of any screen wash will be clearly stated on the label.
NO WASHING UP LIQUID! - I've seen many people over the years fill up their washer tanks with washing up liquid ... not a great idea - it creates a smeary, foamy mess over the windscreen and can clog up the spray nozzles.
3. Warning Lights
The lights on your dashboard are your car's way of communicating with you. If any of them are staying lit once your car is fully turned on it would be best to investigate it now. Ignoring a warning light increases the likelihood of suffering a breakdown at any time of the year, but in the winter months a long wait for a recovery service seems even more uninviting.
4. All exterior lights
Make sure every bulb is working including; indicators, brake lights, fog lights, headlights and the one everyone forgets - the number plate light. If you are performing this check yourself you will need another person to press on the brakes and apply the handbrake to check those bulbs. There are fewer daylight hours, so it is probable you will be driving in the dark at some point over the winter. Having all your bulbs working gives other drivers the best chance of seeing you through the fog and rain.
REMEMBER - Driving with a blown bulb is illegal, you could receive a fixed penalty notice and/or 3 points on your licence.
5. Fluid Levels
Check you engine oil - without sufficient oil in your car, the engine will seize and leave your car undrivable. If you don't know how to check your own oil levels then make sure you have your car checked by someone who does. Oil is vital to keeping all the moving parts of your engine lubricated so these do not grind and cause damage, as well as absorbing heat from the working parts to keep the engine cool.
Brake Fluid - On winter roads stopping distance will be reduced due to ice, snow or water on the surface. Making sure your brakes are working as efficiently as possible to give you the best chance of stopping when you need to. Brake fluid is a serviceable item and it is generally recommended to be replaced every 2 years. It degenerates over time making your brakes less effective and increasing your overall stopping distance.
Coolant - The coolant in your cars plays a vital role, without it your car will overheat leading to massive damage that will be costly to put right. Imagine if you went to the gym for a 2 hour workout and didn't drink any water - your body wouldn't be thanking you. In the winter it is important to know whether your coolant has any antifreeze in it. If you do have water in your coolant tank, it's of no use if it is frozen. The pictures on the right show our tool which can tell us instantly if you have antifreeze in your coolant - it's a test that takes a minute that could save expensive repair bills. If the weights don't rise as on the left, there is no antifreeze present, on the right all of the weights have risen showing the coolant here will not freeze up to temperatures of -50 degree centigrade. In the UK a freezing point of -15 degree centigrade is usually sufficient. If you are topping up your coolant on your own the freezing point should be clearly stated as will the mix of water to antifreeze you need to use.
5. Fan Belt
This is the rubber band which whirls around in your car. It connects pulleys for features such as the power steering, air conditioning and interior heating. In winter this rubber component goes from being freezing cold overnight to toasty and warm when the engine is working. These extremes of temperature make the fan belt more liable to crack and break. Checking for existing weak points reduces this risk over the colder months.
Your tyres are the only part of your car that is in contact with the road surface so it is essential these are in good condition. The legal tyre tread limit is 1.6mm, however, most garages will recommend at least 3mm of tread to give your car the best possible chance of gripping the road.
DON'T FORGET - if you have a full size spare tyre make sure you check this as well.
7. Brake pads and brake discs
As wear and tear items, brake pads and discs need replacing regularly. As your car might struggle to stop as quickly in the winter weather, making sure brake pads are not too worn will lend a welcome helping hand. All manufacturers will have a level of thickness they recommend, a visual check will let you know whether you need to take a closer look and measure the thickness of the brake pad left.
If you are not confident to look and decide whether your brake pads are still in a good condition, make sure you get a trained professional to check for you.
There are many checks on this list that you might be able to do yourself at home. A few are more challenging, such as checking brake pad thickness. All are important measures of your car's health before we enter winter. If you cannot confidently carry out these checks for yourself, you should have a trained professional do it for you as they could save you time waiting for a recovery service and lots of money on expensive repairs.
The Winter Health Check at Rivervale House will only take up around 15 minutes of your day, and in that time you can enjoy a coffee on us in our Starbucks area. We can let you know of any issues you may wish to address before the harshest of the winter weather arrives.
You can book a free winter health check online or give us a call on 01273 433480!
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The comments above do not necessarily reflect Rivervale's views unless clearly stated.