Important Car Checks Before Long Journeys In Winter

08 October 2021 Blog

Are you embarking on a longer than usual journey soon? Take care when out and about, especially as we head in to the winter months

There are a number of checks that you should carry out on your vehicle before you embark on your next journey to ensure you arrive at your destination safely, especially as the weather starts to turn and we’re experiencing more wet and windy weather.

 

Check Your Tyres

There are quite a few aspects to check regarding your tyres as we approach winter. Tread depth and tyre pressure are the obvious ones, but you should also inspect for uneven wear and any signs of bulging or tears.

 

Tread Depth

Not everybody will have a tool to check tread depth but did you know you can use a 20 pence piece as a guide? The border that surrounds the 20p piece is a perfect guide to check the depth of your tyre.

If you can visibly see the whole 20p piece than your tyres are significantly worn and should be replaced as soon as possible. If you cannot see the outer edge of the coin or even more of the coin than that, then your tyres have plenty of tread left on them.

 

Tyre Pressures

Not only are tread depths important but also the tyre pressures. Tyre pressures vary from model to model and from the tyres at the front to the tyres at the rear. Check what pressure your tyres should be in your vehicle’s handbook, and inflate or deflate them accordingly.

 

Lights

As the mornings and evenings get darker, it is vital to check your lights are all in working order, so you don’t get caught out as daylight wanes.

If you have someone available to help you, get in the car and switch your lights on. Ask the other person to walk around the outside of the vehicle to check they are all in working order. Don’t forget to check the full list of:

  • Daytime headlights
  • Full beam
  • Fog lights
  • Indicators
  • Brake lights

If one of these isn’t working, get the bulb replaced immediately.

You can also do these checks yourself by switching the relevant lights on and walking around the vehicle to inspect it yourself.

To check you brake lights apply the brake and use a reflective surface such as a window or garage door to see if they are in working order.

 

Oil & Coolant

Low oil level can lead to breakdown but also serious engine damage so it is vital to regularly check your oil level.

Checking your oil level is really easy. A ‘dipstick’ with a yellow handle will be visible under your bonnet. When you pull out the dipstick, there will be a minimum and maximum dot or line. Wipe this clean and reinsert it. Your engine oil should be visible on the end of the dipstick and your oil should be visible between the minimum and maximum line as shown in the picture below. If the oil is below the minimum line, or not present at all, you need to top up your engine with oil as soon as possible.

Coolant is just as important as oil. Although you shouldn’t actually be needing to top up your vehicle with coolant, if you have a coolant leak you aren’t aware of, your car will overheat and can cause serious damage to your engine.

Checking your coolant level is really simple. Your coolant is usually found in a container similar to the one in the image below. On the container will be a guide on what the maximum and minimum levels should be – ensure your coolant levels are within this range.

Refer to your handbook if you do need to top up your coolant as the mix is relevant to each individual car and engine. To be safest, take your car to a reputable garage to have the levels topped up.

 

Brakes

A visual inspection of your brakes is difficult to see what you should be looking out for. The easiest thing to do is to keep them regularly maintained. Usually an annual MOT will be enough to keep your brakes safe and road legal.

One thing you can do yourself is check your brake fluid level. Similar to your coolant check, there will be a minimum and maximum guide and your level should be in-between the two. If the level is low, it is worth seeing a specialist as it is not always straight forward finding the correct fluid for your vehicle.

 

Windscreen Wipers & Screen Wash

Wiper blades are quite often forgotten. Why have a full tank of washer fluid if when you use it, the wipers are smudging because they aren’t clean or not clearing the screen properly because they are so worn.

You can lift the wiper blade away from your windscreen to check to the wear and there is certainly no harm in giving them a wipe with some kitchen roll to make sure they are clean. To check the washer fluid level.

Washer fluid tends to come pre-mixed so you are able to just pour it in without having to add any water.

 

Fuel Level / Electric Charge

The last thing you want to do on a long journey is run out of fuel (or charge if you drive an electric vehicle). You leave yourself exposed on the road if you have to wait for assistance, but dual carriageways and motorways are extremely dangerous to break down on. What's more, you don't want to be left stranded on a cold roadside in the middle of winter.

Plan your journey in advance and always make sure you check your fuel/charge level before setting off.