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Winter driving

Essential winter car maintenance for 2021

Winter car maintenance is always important, as it helps to ensure that your car is safe and roadworthy when it’s needed, regardless of some of the worst weather that the UK throws at us. In addition to this, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there are the additional considerations in relation to many vehicles having perhaps being used much less than normal over the past months, if at all. What essential maintenance should car owners be doing this winter even if they aren’t planning on much time spent driving?

General winter maintenance

General maintenance of any car during colder months is always really important to help minimise the risks of anything going wrong when your car is needed. A quick checklist of what to keep an eye on can include:

  • Check oil, antifreeze and screenwash levels
  • Check your battery (older batteries can struggle to maintain charge in colder weather sometimes)
  • Check the condition of wipers (wipers can often break or degrade quickly if used on icy windows)
  • Check all lights are working (including fog lights)
  • Check your tyre tread (1.6mm is the legal minimum tread depth but at least 3mm is recommended for winter)
  • Check your tyre pressures (the pressure can fluctuate with changes in temperature and incorrect pressures can speed up tyre degradation)
  • Have an ‘emergency box’ in the boot just in case you break down (containing things like a warning triangle, hi-vis vest, food and drink, a first aid kit, de-icer and a scraper, a torch, warm clothing, a tow rope and wellies)

Lockdown-specific car maintenance

Depending on your circumstances, only driving for essential journeys could mean anything from not driving at all, or just once or twice a week to pick up things like groceries, to driving as much (or even more) as you did pre-pandemic for work that can’t be done at home or to carry out things like caring responsibilities. Cars are not really designed to be sat unused for long periods of time, or only ever driven on very short journeys, so some vehicles might start having some problems if this is what has been happening to your car for much of the last year.

Very short drives or starting your car and leaving it to idle for a few minutes can actually drain your battery rather than recharge it, but at a time when you want to do as little driving as possible to help keep everyone safer, it might not be advisable or possible to do longer journeys. Combining several essential errands into one journey can be a way to help your car’s battery have enough time to recover more charge, if that’s possible in your circumstances. If not, you may be able to use a trickle charger or battery conditioner if your car battery has shown signs of struggling to cope with lack of use. Always follow the manufacturer’s handbook and instructions when using these.

Whilst petrol and diesel don’t ‘go off’ in the same way as perishable foods, these types of fuel can start to degrade over time, and can even thicken and cause some clogging in the engine if your vehicle isn’t being used and new fuel isn’t added to the tank. With partially full tanks, condensation can build up over time which can also speed up degradation. If you’re using a little fuel with essential journeys in your car, it’s a good idea to top up a small amount every few weeks if possible rather than run it down to nearly empty.

If you have an electric vehicle that isn’t being used often at the moment, it’s not a good idea to keep the battery topped up to full all of the time, or allowing it to drop to empty either. Manufacturer’s instructions can vary, but generally it’s considered best to have the battery at around 50% charge when it’s not being used regularly.

If you do use your car regularly for essential journeys, getting it serviced can help to ensure that it stays on the road for longer and minimises the risks of major problems developing out of the blue by picking issues up early. Servicing appointments can be arranged in a COVID-19 safe way at your closest Hatfields – see information more here.

To book your car in for its next service or find out more about service plans, contact your local Hatfields retailer today.