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How Should I Prepare My Vehicle For Cold Weather?

With these past summers getting ever steamier and toastier by the year, we're gradually becoming more hopeful for the change of seasons, when the sun is replaced with blankets of snow. But as the air around us turns chilly, do remember that it's not just your body that needs to acclimatise to the new weather. Your car too, will need some preparation done as the surroundings turn cold.

It's odd to think that a machine like your car, usually assumed to be robust and long-lasting, needs any sort of prep at all for the colder climate to come. Does a bit of snow, or frosty mornings really have that big of an impact on your car? Indeed it does, and while modern cars are engineered to be far more resistant to simple changes in temperature, there are a few things that you should check.

So, let's go through a simple, yet crucial checklist to have at the ready to have done on your car, as we get closer to the year's end, as the air around us turns into frozen crystals...

The To-Do List

Winter Tyres - Tyres are designed and fine-tuned to differing climates, and you can opt to have them in Summer, All-Season, or Winter tyres. As the name suggests, winter tyres have been re-engineered to provide more grip, and thus improved cornering and braking, while the road surfaces are turning icy. This won't just improve your car's performance in the cold, but also significantly boost its safety.

Tyre Treads - Any tyre - winter or otherwise - won't be able to provide any traction at all if they're completely bald, or are going to. Not only would they increase your stopping distance, but they might also compromise your handling. Rotate them around if necessary. You can check the condition of the treads by inserting a 20p coin. If you can't see the outer band (roughly 2mm), then the grooves should be deep enough. 

Tyre Pressure - Following a familiar theme here; whether or not you choose to opt for winter tyres, one thing is for certain - tyre pressure must be monitored as regularly as possible. In fact, your tyres can start deflating a little as the temperature drops to below 0°c. As the conditions are absolutely tough out there, a sufficiently inflated tyre will ensure that you can have all the traction that you need. 

Brakes - While you're checking out your tyres, you may as well think about your brakes, too. The brakes undergo an immense amount of strain when winter's arrived. This is exacerbated not only by you needing to brake more often to slow your car down, but also due to moisture and salt on the road surface. The latter two can cause the brakes to start rusting, which may cause problems over time. 

Battery - The chemicals inside a lithium-ion battery in your car can be impacted by the temperature. If it's too cold, it can reduce the effectiveness of your car's battery, and possibly even affect its ability to function, such as starting up your car. Thus, it's always a good idea to check the condition of your car's battery if it's getting cold out, especially so if your battery is more than 2-3 years old. 

Fluids - Your car has many different fluids for cooling, lubrication, hydraulics, or elsewhere, and it's vital that you have them topped up, or replaced before winter. Your coolant, for example, should hopefully have some antifreeze in it to keep the flow going when it's cold out, while also providing rust protection for your car's cooling system. The motor oil, meanwhile, undergoes a lot of strain 

during winter times caused by fuel or water contamination. So, have that one looked into as well, alongside brake fluids, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and so on.

Window Wipers - If the air is turning frosty on you, ice might start building up on your windshield. To keep your vision clear, consider changing out your wipers if they're getting old. Even better, you may want to invest in the specialty winter windshield wipers that provide improved wiping performance to push away heavy snow and ice, as well as provide some protection against it freezing.

Washer Fluid - As the snow turns your windshield into a frosty mess, or perhaps its salt and muck that was thrown up onto your car's glass, you'll be clearing that quite often. Remember then to have your car's washer fluid reservoir topped up, and perhaps carry an extra bottle for emergencies. You may also like to consider getting some unique winter washersolutions that are built to not freeze up.

Fuel - Get ready to fuel up, and try to brim the tanks if you can before it turns snowy. Cold weather can cause condensation or moisture to build up inside of the fuel tank, which could sooner or later result in frozen fuel lines, fuel pump problems, as well as other serious issues. This is easily avoidable by replacing all that otherwise empty space inside of the tank with fuel, and keep it topped up.

Lubrication - If by some chance it's going to get really cold where you're at, you may want to add some lubricant to your door locks, latches, hinges, window seals, and perhaps even the bonnet, boot lid, or hatch tail-gate. Usually, these are silicone lubricating compounds that you're after. By spraying all these openable panels or areas of your car, you can prevent them from freezing shut. 

Survival Kit - Some might say it's unnecessary, but if you were to get stuck in the middle of a winter storm, or if there's an emergency, a survival kit is a must. Keep it stuffed up inside your car, and have it ready. Among the things to include are perishable food items, first aid supplies, winter clothing, gloves, blankets, a spare tyre, battery jumper cables, a windshield scraper, shovel, matches, a lighter, a torch (with extra batteries), and a few more bits and bobs to get you prepared, just in case.