5 Ways To Keep Your Car Running Smoothly During Winter

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According to the latest RAC Report on Motoring, more people are dependant on their cars, mainly because of fears around public transport safety when it comes to spreading the coronavirus.

With the colder months now upon us and there being a higher reliance on personal vehicles for transport, it’s now more important than ever to look after your motor.

To help you keep on top of your car winter maintenance, we list five ways of ensuring your vehicle runs smoothly during the cold season.

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1. Pay attention to your dashboard warning lights

car winter maintenance - check engine light

Most problems with your car will be brought to your attention by the dashboard lights in front of you.

The vital components in your car have associated warning lights that will flash either amber (indicating an advisory issue) or red (suggesting more urgent issues that need addressing right away). For example, the ‘check engine’ light (pictured above) comes on if there’s damage to the engine compartment or if your exhaust has a leak.

Winter time can pose certain challenges to parts of your car, especially as extremely cold conditions make it harder for the battery, fuel systems and your tyres, among other things. For this reason, it’s important to keep on top of car winter maintenance by regularly checking your dashboard for any warning lights.

Want to find out what each engine warning light means, so you know what you’re looking for? Check out our handy guide explaining what car warning lights mean, plus what to do if they appear on your dash.

2. Charge your batteries regularly

car winter maintenance - 12v battery charger

If you go to start your car on a cold day and nothing happens, it’s more than likely the result is because of an issue with the battery.

The quickest way to solve this is by doing a jump start, which you can find out how to do here. However, the purpose of this post is to give you advice on ways to properly maintain your vehicle long-term through a long UK winter.

Charging your car’s 12V battery is essential to keeping all your electrical systems – plus the vehicle itself – running smoothly, especially if the only driving you do is short trips.

A proper battery charger costs as little as £30 and they’re fairly straightforward to use too. First you’ll need to check what type of charger you’ll need (if you have start/stop technology, your car will have an AGM/EFB battery, which requires a smart charger). Otherwise, a conventional car battery charger will work fine.

Once you have the right charger, follow these five simple steps to charge the battery:

  1. Make sure the contacts aren’t corroded/dirty. Before connecting the charging clamps to the battery lead terminals, check that both of them (lead terminals and clamps) aren’t corroded or dirty. If they are, you’ll need to clean them.
  2. Disconnect your battery. To disconnect your car battery, remove the negative lead (most often this is black) first, then the positive lead (usually the red one). Bolts on the terminal clamps can be loosened or tightened when disconnecting and reconnecting.
  3. Connect your charger. While keeping the charger as far away from the battery as possible, connect the charger’s clamps to the battery terminals, matching positive to positive and negative to negative. You can then plug in the charger.
  4. Turn the charger off once it’s finished charging. To avoid overcharging your battery, remember to read the manual so you know roughly how long it takes to charge. Alternatively, if you’ve decided to invest in a smart charger then there should be an indicator that lets you know when it’s fully charged.
  5. Reconnect your battery. All done! Next step is to unplug the charger, then disconnect the clamps. After this, reconnect your car battery (positive lead first this time, negative last).

If you regularly drive longer distances, you probably won’t need to charge your batteries as often as someone only commutes locally. This is because the alternator in your car will charge your batteries more.

3. Check oil levels and choose the right oil

car winter maintenance - oil change

Engine oil in your car tends to thicken in colder temperatures, which can sometimes mean that there’s increased friction in the starter motor, forcing it to work harder.

You can avoid this issue by choosing the right engine oil.

For wintery conditions, there are special types of thin engine oil that perform better in the cold. Names are given to these winter-friendly engine oils that allow you identify them, such as ‘5W’ and ’10W’ (the ‘W’ meaning ‘winter’, while a lower number means it performs better in colder temperatures).

5W oils are generally considered suitable for a typical UK winter, although there are 0W oils for those living in the coldest climates.

Checking your engine oil levels every couple of weeks should also form a part of winter car maintenance. To do this, open your car’s bonnet and find the dipstick (often this is yellow or orange coloured). Twist the top to loosen it, remove it from the reservoir and wipe it clean. Finally, insert it back in the reservoir and remove it to see whether there’s sufficient oil (using ‘min’ and ‘max’ markers on the side of the metal part).

If you’re worried that your car’s engine oil isn’t suitable for winter, consider getting antifreeze/coolant to help prevent the oil from freezing.

With car leasing you have the option to include a maintenance package that, for a little extra per month, will cover the cost of servicing your new vehicle and keeping on top of common wear and tear items. Does this sound up your street? If so, look for the ‘Maintenance Included’ tag on Moneyshake lease deals before enquiring. Get lease deals with maintenance

4. Monitor your tyre pressure

car winter maintenance tyres

As the temperature drops in winter, so does the temperature of the air in your tyres, causing it to contract and lose pressure.

Most modern cars have a tyre pressure monitoring system, which alerts you via a dashboard light/message on your driver display that you need to put more air in your tyres. If you have an older car, it may be worth investing in a tyre pressure gauge to keep on top of it.

Alternatively, you can do this for free (some stations may charge a small fee) at most fuel garages using an air machine.

5. Keep on top of servicing

Car winter maintenance - service

Most manufacturers advice that you have a full car service every year/12,000 miles, and an interim service every six months/6,000 miles if you clock up more than 20,000 miles a year.

Harsh winter conditions can make having a service that little more urgent, but even more so if you’re already due one.

If you’re leasing your car, it’s especially important to stick to your manufacturer’s service schedule (and make sure each one is stamped and dated by an approved garage in your service check book after). Not doing so could lead to damage charges when it comes to collecting your car at the end of the agreement, especially if there are problems with that don’t constitute ‘fair wear and tear‘.

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