We don't need to tell you that driving in the UK throughout the winter months can be pretty treacherous. Thanks to the unpredictable and disruptive weather conditions, vehicle breakdowns are more common, so it’s very important to take some time to prepare yourself and your car for the cold weather and tricky driving conditions. Arnold Clark has produced a series of articles – a Winter Driver's Guide – so you know what equipment you need, what you ought to check, and how best to drive in winter weather conditions.
Unless we have an unseasonably warm December, we are likely to see some snow, ice, rain, low fog, and temperatures as low as -20°C, as well as darker mornings and evenings, and low sun during the day. In winter, you will need to consider:
Before you set off, make sure you have checked your route (major roads are more likely to have been cleared and gritted than smaller roads), traffic reports, weather reports and, of course, your car. Don’t forget to charge your phone, and pack the essential supplies.
It's tricky when the mornings are dark and dreary, but you probably need to start getting up a little earlier. You need to leave yourself enough time to heat up your car, scrape your windows, and clear snow from the roof of your car (as it can fall on to the windscreen while you are driving). Any moisture will condense and freeze, so don’t pour water over your windscreen, or breathe on locks to warm them up.
Remember: arriving safely is more important than arriving on time! Inform someone at your destination that you are on your way and how long you expect to be, so they can alert the emergency services if you don’t show up.
Are the bulbs in your headlights working? Are the lenses clean? Make sure that mucky roads haven’t affected the lights, and that snow is cleared from them as well as other parts of the car. Not being able to light your way and make yourself visible to other road users could lead to serious problems.
Using the right antifreeze could save you having to fix or replace a broken engine (at considerable expense). Use a half and half mix of antifreeze and water in the cooling system, to protect you when temperatures are as low as -34°C. Antifreeze may need to be replaced every 2 years, depending on the type used (check your manufacturer handbook for the correct type to use, and the service schedule for the replacement times). We're offering 1 litre of antifreeze for just £3.99.
Does your engine squeal for a while when you start your car? This could be the fan belt slipping on the pulley, which would suggest the water pump is frozen, and the cylinder block could be frozen too. Stop the engine and allow it to thaw – this may take several days (or less time in a warm garage.)
If the radiator freezes, the car will begin to overheat when you drive, as the coolant has been prevented from circulating. Is your car overheating? Stop as soon as it's safe to do so.
Ensure that engine coolant is between the minimum and maximum markers.
Make sure you use winter strength screenwash with a freeze-resistant additive. Ordinary screenwash can damage paintwork in the winter weather. Visit Arnold Clark for 1 litre of screenwash for just £1.99.
Flat batteries are the most common reason why cars break down in winter. Using your lights, heating and wipers more frequently will naturally put the car’s battery under pressure. Don’t wait until it fails on you completely, making you late for an important meeting – keep your battery charged and try to replace it before it's too late. The average battery lasts around 5 years.
To save power, avoid over-heating your car, give it a trickle charge over the weekends, and start the engine in short, five second bursts. If it doesn’t start, leave it for thirty seconds to allow the battery to recover. The RAC recommends that you check your battery at least once a week and charge when required.
Find out more in our Winter Tyre Safety Guide.
Remember, you can use your air conditioning in winter months to keep your car warm and cosy – and it's also the best way to clear mist from your windscreen and windows. A re-gas and service will remove the nasty bacteria from your AC unit and we’re giving you 25% off this service at any Arnold Clark branch. Simply mention 'Winter Driver's Guide' when you book.
During the winter health check, Arnold Clark service staff will:
So book your car in at any of our 150 Service Centres across the UK to make sure your car is ready to tackle winter.