Expert Tips for Looking After Your Car This Winter

Charlotte Simmons
Charlotte Simmons
Community Growth Manager at hiyacar
Expert Tips for Looking After Your Car This Winter

Engaging in a spot of preventative maintenance on your hiyacar rental car is vital all year round if it’s going to keep getting your drivers from A to B. But during the winter months, when the temperature drops and driving conditions become more hazardous, it’s particularly important to make sure your car is up to the task. With this in mind, our friends at Kwik Fit have come up with a quick guide to keeping your rental car running this winter.

1) Check the condition of your tyres

Be sure to have a good look at your tyres regularly to ensure there are no signs of damage. Kwik Fit recommends checking your tyres every two weeks during the winter months. If you notice anything unusual like bulges, cuts or debris such as a nail embedded in the tyre, it’s important that you get this checked out asap in case you need replacement tyres. Make sure your tyres are correctly inflated (check your vehicle handbook for recommended pressures or use Kwik Fit’s tyre pressure calculator) and have sufficient tread for optimum performance. Adequate tread is critical to help tyres grip the road in cold, icy conditions. The legal limit for tyre tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm but bear in mind that braking distance increases significantly as your tread wears down. It’s not just icy conditions in which braking distance will suffer, grip is severely affected on wet roads too if your tread is worn to below 3mm.

Checking your tread is easy. You can either use a tread depth gauge to accurately measure the remaining tread or if you don’t have one of those, a simple 20p piece can help. Simply place the 20p coin into the tread groove, if you can see the outer border on the coin it means your tread is significantly worn and the tyre probably needs changing.

2) Check your fluid levels and top up if necessary

During the winter months, the fluids in your car play an important role as they include antifreeze which prevents water from expanding and turning to ice in the radiator and pipes causing damage which is expensive to repair (and keeping you off the road).

Firstly, check your engine coolant levels. Coolant (often just referred to as antifreeze) provides a dual benefit for your car in that it helps to regulate the temperature of your engine in both hot and cold conditions. Coolant protects your engine during the cold winter months preventing fluids from freezing which could otherwise cause the engine block to crack. At the same time, when the engine is running, it can become very hot. Therefore, the coolant helps to maintain the vehicle temperature by removing excessive heat from the engine thanks to its high boiling point. Your vehicle handbook will tell you where to find the coolant reservoir which will be marked with a min and max line so you don’t under or overfill.

Secondly, make sure your windscreen washer bottle is filled up with screenwash. The screenwash mixture also contains antifreeze which helps prevent your washer fluid from freezing. If you are using an undiluted screenwash to top up, make sure you use the correct amount of water to dilute as a stronger mixture is required during the winter months.

3) Inspect your wiper blades for damage

Make sure your windscreen wipers are in good working order. Winter brings with it the worst driving conditions and it can be difficult to view the road in driving rain or thick fog. If your windscreen wipers aren’t up to the task of keeping a clear view, it’s only going to make matters worse.

Start with a visual inspection of the wiper blades. If you can see visible cracks and splits in the rubber edging or ‘squeegee’, it’s time to replace it. Next, turn on the wipers and apply the windscreen washers to get the surface wet. Now lookout for the 3 S’s — Streaking, Squeaking and Skipping — which could suggest a problem. Streaking is when the wiper blades leave large smears on the windscreen, Squeaking is when the blades make a loud unpleasant screeching noise when running over the windscreen, while Skipping is when the wiper blade does not make full contact with the glass. In each case, the wipers are probably doing a poor job of clearing the windscreen of dirt and water so it’s best to get them looked at as they may just need adjusting.

4) Get your battery checked out

Lots of things can go wrong with your car during the cold, winter months but battery failure is the most common issue with more breakdowns reported due to a flat battery than any other vehicle problem.

That’s because the battery is the one component that is most susceptible to the cold and when the temperature drops below zero degrees Celcius, a fully-charged battery will only have around two-thirds of its power available. If that wasn’t enough, turning your heating fans on full blast to warm the car only puts more strain on your already struggling car battery.

Don’t wait until your engine won’t start in the morning, there’s a number of things you can do to avoid battery failure.

Firstly, check for corrosion on the battery terminals and ensure these are fitted tightly. Corrosion on the contacts is caused when battery acid is able to escape due to a faulty connection. Clean the terminals to ensure a good connection.

Minimize the use of lights, heaters, blowers, chargers, sat nav and the radio when starting the car so that more power is directed from the alternator to the battery and essential electrical systems.

Lastly, like any rechargeable battery, car batteries will naturally lose their charging ability over time and most batteries are designed with an expected lifetime of 5–10 years. If you can’t recall the last time you ever had a replacement battery and you have owned the car for more than 5 years, it might be time to replace it or at least get it checked out, before it one day lets you down.

If you are concerned about keeping your car running this winter or you’re not sure about any of the above tips, don’t worry, the team at Kwik Fit are here to help and offer a vehicle safety check specifically created for hiyacar members to help get your rental car winter-ready. As well as checking the fluid levels in your vehicle and the strength of the mixture, the Kwik Fit team will also check your tyres for overall condition including tread depth and tyre pressure, test the charging ability of your battery, and make sure your wipers, washers and lights are working properly.

If you’d like to use a vehicle without the worry of all the regular upkeep, consider sharing one. Take a look at the vehicles we have available.

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