Tips for avoiding winter car repairs
Small Steps That Can Help You Avoid Unexpected Breakdowns
When it comes to financial planning, something many people don’t consider is taking steps to prevent emergency costs from occurring. As short-term lenders, we are used to borrowers coming to us to meet unexpected costs that can’t wait until payday. One of the most common is car repair expenses.
The winter months can take a major toll on your car. If you’re someone who doesn’t have the safety net of a considerable income or savings, it’s a good idea to carry out some simple checks before the winter sets in. These simple steps can prevent winter car repairs from needing to be carried out, saving you vast amounts of cash and preventing the need to take out a loan to cover the costs.
What causes winter car breakdowns?
According to research by Axa Insurance, there are five main reasons cars break down in the winter months, and these are very different from the cases of breakdowns during the summer. This is why it’s so important to take specific steps to prevent car problems at the beginning of the winter, because the weather gets really cold and icy.
Here’s Axa’s top five winter breakdown causes:
- Empty battery - research shows you are 51 per cent more likely to have problems with your car battery in the winter.
- Flat tyres - You are 36 per cent more likely to suffer a flat tyre during the winter.
- Engine cuts out - this happens 27 per cent more often in the winter months.
- Car won’t start - There are 18 per cent more incidents of cars not starting in the winter than in the summer.
- Engine warning light comes on - this is 4 per cent more likely to happen in the winter.
Here’s our guide to the measures you can take to help protect your car against the elements this winter.
Get the basics checked and invest in car servicing
Although it may come at a cost, having your car serviced before the winter is a sensible move if you want to avoid a costly winter breakdown, for which you may not be financially prepared. As well as getting your car serviced, there are basic checks that everyone should do regularly regardless of the season, but particularly before the cold weather arrives. These checks include:
- Your tyre pressure
- Your oil and water levels
- Making sure your lights are working correctly
As well as preventing the unexpected cost and inconvenience associated with a breakdown, carrying out these checks will also help to keep you safe.
Pay attention to your battery
It makes sense to get your battery checked in advance of the coldest winter months. The winter takes a far greater toll on your battery. Just think about how much more you use the lights, the heater and the wipers in the winter.
We all recognise that sinking feeling when your engine fails to start as you turn the ignition key, or your car fails to even unlock. These issues are often down to a flat battery, which will either need charging or replacing.
In light of all this, making sure your battery is in tip-top condition could prevent unnecessary problems. We would recommend getting your battery checked at a garage, but you can also do it yourself with the help of your car manual and a battery tester. Batteries do have a shelf-life, so you may need to invest in a new one before the winter if it’s proving unreliable. Remember, a scheduled expense is always better than an unscheduled expense, so think carefully about investing in a fresh battery if you know yours is old and worn-out.
Check tyre tread and wiper blades before driving in the rain
The tread of your tyres should, ideally, be 3mm for winter driving. The legal minimum is 1.8mm but winter driving requires a thicker tread. If in doubt, get your tyres checked professionally or replace them with new ones that you know will keep you safe.
Your wiper blades also need to be checked for cracks and splits. They don’t last forever so it’s vital to ensure they’re working OK before setting out on rainy days. It’s easy to go months without using your wipers, and it’s also easy to find yourself on the motorway in the heavy rain with substandard wiper blades. If you need to replace your wipers with new ones, you can do it yourself following this guide from the RAC.
Tyre maintenance is also important
Maintaining the correct tyre pressure isn’t as black and white as most drivers believe. In the winter months, the colder outside temperatures reduce the pressure in your tyres. Therefore, it’s a good idea to increase the pressure by 0.2 bars, which is about 3 PSI.
When you go to inflate your tyres, try to find a garage that’s a short crawl away from your home so you can inflate them while they are still cold. Your tyres will be cold if you have driven less than two miles at a slow speed.
Another factor to consider when it comes to tyres is the type of tyre on your vehicle. Winter tyres are specifically designed to cope well with temperatures under zero degrees and can help you gain traction on slippery, wet, snowy or icy roads. Summer tyres are not appropriate for temperatures of under seven degrees as they will actually lose tractions in colder weather, making an accident much more likely.
Keep an eye on your antifreeze levels
The cooling system or your engine should be filled with half antifreeze and half water. Check the antifreeze levels and ensure that your levels of water and antifreeze are, indeed, equal. The pressure levels in your cooling system can also sometimes be a little off. Sometimes, getting the pressure checked can show leaks that are only just starting to appear. Spotting these early in the winter will prevent your engine breaking down when the weather gets really cold.
Finally - make sure you have the right winter gear in your car
There are a few items that you should carry in your car for the winter months that you wouldn’t need during the summer. These won’t always prevent a breakdown, but they could help you with a journey and come in handy if you do find yourself waiting by the road for a recovery vehicle.
- An ice-scraper and de-icer
- A warm car blanket
- A torch
- A spare in-car phone charger for emergencies
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