Winter driving - how to prepare your car

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Last winter it was rain, the previous year it was snow - but whatever the weather, preparing your car for the winter season is a must if you're to stay safe and avoid unnecessary damage to your vehicle. Here are a few words of advice ahead of the cold and wet.

If your car hasn't been serviced recently, it's wise to book one in before the worst of the weather. The more residue and rubbish clogging up the internals of the engine, the harder the battery has to work. And on that note, remember that cold weather will also give your battery a hard time. Since they generally last around five years, it's worth searching for a reasonably priced replacement than forking out a higher price if your car breaks down. If you do a lot of driving, it might be worth investing in winter tyres.

DIY checks
Simple checks and replacements that don't require the attentions of a professional include checking that wiper blades are in tip-top condition and replacing those that aren't (squeaking could be a sign that they're damaged), and topping up washer fluid. Mixing washer fluid yourself rather than buying the ready mixed kind means you can up the concentration, making it less likely to freeze if the weather turns cold.

If you haven't gone with winter tyres, check the tread on your existing tyres. A minimum depth of 3mm is recommended for the winter months, so replace those that don't match up. Also check tyre pressures regularly.

A spot of WD40 on locks and other mechanisms will help to ensure they don't freeze up or stick, and to prevent doors from sticking shut in freezing conditions, dab a little Vaseline on seals. Lastly, pop the bonnet and clear out all the dead leaves and autumn debris that might have accumulated, and give your car a good clean, waxing if possible, to protect it from harsh weather and gritted roads.

In-car essentials
There are some items that are handy to have in your car all year round, jump leads, an in-car phone charger, warning triangle to name a few. But in winter, it's wise to add a few extras in case of emergencies. A few bits of carpet or thick cardboard can provide traction in snowy or icy conditions, while salt, sand or cat litter or a collapsible shovel (available for as little as £5.99) can help to clear snow and ice.

Of course an ice scraper and/or de-icer should be on hand, and a torch (don't forget extra batteries) is invaluable as the dark evenings draw in. For your own personal welfare, if snow is forecast, a warm blanket or sleeping bag is a good idea, and you'll appreciate packing some bottled water or flask of hot drink and a few snacks should you get stuck.

Lastly, if you don't have a tow rope, get one. If you get stuck, finding a friendly farmer to tow you out will be of no use without one.

How do you prepare your car for winter? Leave your comments below...
Tips for Winter Driving