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Winter Vehicle Maintenance

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 28 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Seasonal Vehicle Checks Winter Summer

Whether you're driving in the heat of the summer or the cold winter months, each season can bring its own problems. Driving in the winter months and facing snow, ice, wet and cold conditions can be pretty miserable, but then so can being stuck in a boiling hot car in the middle of July.

Before you set off anywhere, it's a good idea to keep your car in good technical repair as will go some way towards reducing your chances of either breaking down, or ending up in an accident.

Things to look out for:

1. Brakes

Check your brakes and make any adjustments needed to ensure that the brakes are working equally on both sides of the vehicle.This is important in both winter and summer, but particularly so in winter as cold and icy conditions may require you to brake quickly without having any time to think about it.

2. Tyres

Tyres can be the difference between life and death in bad weather. Check your tyre pressure, tyre balance and wheel alignment. Summer problems can involve oily road surfaces, caused by the sun beating down on the roads and being followed by rain. Tyres with good tread and balance will make it easier to control the car in these situations as well as in ice, snow and wet conditions, familiar with the winter months.

3. Electrics

Check your battery - recharge it if the battery is weak and if it still remains weak, replace it. It might be worth having the charging system checked out if you've experienced any particular problems. Check the ignition for damaged wires or cracks in the distributor cap. Finally take a good look at your lights. Test them all in turn (this is easier to do if someone helps you) and make sure they are all functioning correctly. You need your battery fully charged in the winter in case you get stuck in snow as it will power your heater and if you have air conditioning in your car, you'll need it in full working order to power that in the summer too.

4. Exhaust

Check the exhaust system for leaks. In the winter months it's very easy to be overwhelmed with fumes from the exhaust pipe if you're not careful. If your exhaust is properly sealed, it significantly reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as does making sure that there is nothing blocking the exhaust pipe, including snow. Keep the windows of your car open very slightly if you are unlucky enough to get stuck in snow, and run the engine and the heater to keep warm.

5. Heating system

The radiator and hoses need to be checked for leaks. Ensure that your car has enough antifreeze which is rated with sufficient strength for the coldest possible weather. If you have heated rear/front windows, check that they are working. In the summer, replace antifreeze with coolants, and make sure that your car can make it from A to B without overheating.

6. Windscreen Wipers

Make sure that your windscreen wipers work properly and don't smear. Replace them if you need to. In the winter, fill the wash liquid container with a specially designed winter fluid that contains antifreeze to keep it functional and top it up frequently. In the summer, keep extra bottles of ready-made screen wash in the car, as muck and dirt on the windscreen can reflect badly in the sunshine and make visibility difficult.

7. Fuel

Fill up before you leave on any long trips. Use your common sense and don't let the fuel levels drop too much - the nearest petrol station may be further away than you think - and should you get stuck you may need to rely on your engine as a source of heat. This also goes for the summer - you could run out of fuel miles from a petrol station and have to trek along in the glaring heat, putting yourself at risk. A good idea for both seasons is to make sure you have a fresh supply of water in the boot, in case of emergency.

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