Treat your car now for a smooth ride this winter

Most of us know to clear the gutters and put the garden hose away before winter really kicks in, but we often overlook our cars. Whether it’s a chip in your windscreen, tyres more worn than you realise, or your coolant needing a top up, it’s important to get these things sorted before the winter weather really kicks in. So grab a hot chocolate and check out our top tips for a smoother, safer drive this winter.

Get a winter health check sorted

Getting the car serviced can seem less important than other things you’ve got on your plate, but to keep your car happy and healthy, it’s important to try and stick to getting regular services. Most car manufacturers recommend a service either every year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes sooner, so if you’re overdue then give the garage a call and get it booked in.

Whether freshly serviced or not, it’s still a good idea to do a few checks to make sure your car’s ready for the winter weather – after all, when was the last time you popped the bonnet and checked how your levels were doing? Check the manual to find out where your oil, coolant, screen wash and brake fluid reservoirs are, then make sure you’ve got the right amount in each. If anything seems low and you’re not confident topping up yourself speak to a local garage.

With fallen leaves and wet, icy roads at this time of year, your tyres need to be in tip top condition, so make sure their tread and pressure is up to scratch. While the legal requirement for tyre tread depth is 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tyres, tyre and safety experts recommend 3mm for a safer drive – the wet braking distance between a tyre worn to 3mm and one worn to 1.6mm can vary by as much as 44%1.


Tackle those cracks and chips

A chip in your windscreen might be another one of those things you’ll ‘get around to fixing’, but a small chip or crack can become a bigger, more expensive repair before you know it – and in some cases could even progress to you needing the whole windscreen repaired. Chips or cracks bigger than 10cm that are in the driver’s line of vision are actually something you’ll fail your MOT on2, so should never be ignored.

At this time of year wind and rain creating more debris on the road can increase the chance of something being flicked up and hitting your windscreen – plus any existing cracks could get worse when the weather turns chilly, as if water gets into the chip and then freezes, it will expand, and increase the size of the damage. So if you’ve got a chip or crack, it’s never too soon to get it repaired. You’ll save yourself time and hassle, and you’ll potentially reduce the impact on the environment too – the repair will use less materials, and not having to replace a whole windscreen means less waste going to landfill3.

If you’re a Sheilas’ Wheels customer with fully comprehensive car insurance, you’ve got windscreen cover, and our suppliers Autoglass can handle the repair for you. You can book them to come to you at a convenient time, or you can take the car to one of their repair centres – either way, the repair can take as little as 30 minutes4. If you need to make a claim, you can do so on 0800 032 9082, or through your Account.

And while we’re on the subject of windscreens, don’t forget to check those wipers! Ill-fitted or damaged wipers can smear rather than clear your windows, and even damage the windscreen, so get them replaced. Make sure your washer fluid is ‘all-season’ or winter suitable too so it doesn’t freeze.

Prepare for the road ahead

With more questionable weather conditions at this time of year you might need to allow more time for your journeys. Motorways may put lower speed restrictions in place on wet, icy or foggy roads, and if you’re driving after a storm, be aware of diversions as a result of floods or fallen trees. Don’t attempt to drive through flood water as you can never be truly sure of how deep it is, or if there’s any debris under the surface that you can’t see.

While no one wants to think about getting stranded at the side of the road, having an emergency kit in the car is something you’ll be glad of should the worst happen. A blanket, warm clothes, rainproof coat or poncho, torch, first-aid kit, a warning triangle, and some hi-viz for you are all essentials for your kit. We’d also suggest a cheeky snack, but just check it’s got a long expiry date, and a drink too.

car windscreen being scraped

Make sure you can see the road ahead

De-fogging or de-icing the windscreen is time consuming, but necessary for your and other road users’ safety. Resist the temptation to pour boiling water onto a frosty windscreen as it can make it crack, and stay away from those credit cards and other makeshift ice scrapers, as you could scratch the glass. Instead, spray on some de-icer, use a proper ice scraper, and pop your car’s heating on while you do it to give you a helping hand.

We know it’s tempting to run out, pop the engine and heating on to warm up the car and defrost the windscreen, then head back indoors to finish making your coffee…but while you’re waiting for the coffee machine to finish up, an opportunistic thief could jump in your car and drive it away, with any related claim unlikely to be accepted. So grab the gloves and coat and head out five minutes earlier, so you can stay with the car.

Got an EV? Here’s some extra tips just for you…

If you drive an electric vehicle, you might need to give it a little bit of extra love at this time of year, as the colder weather can affect the battery and performance. As batteries can be less efficient in the cold your range could be reduced, so make sure you’re fully charged before setting off, and plan in regular charging stops if you’re on a long journey. Your car might also have an eco-mode that can help you get more from the range.

Your EV might also have ‘preconditioning’ which allows you to set the car to warm up while it’s charging, so you don’t use up any battery power. Never leave your car unattended if the car is unlocked while you’re doing this though.

To keep the battery in tip top condition, keep it above 20% charge whenever possible, and avoid running it down completely5.

We hope these tips help you navigate your way to smoother, safer driving this winter. Don’t forget, if you need to check your cover at any time, or if the worst happens and you need to make a claim, you can do this in your Account.

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