By Maurice Hardy

A little time spent now could save a lot of time and money as the weather worsens! It’s October and as the days shorten, you’re likely to be thinking (not too happily) about winter.

But to prepare your car requires a need for some urgency. There’s still time to beat the Autumn workshop rush that coincides with chilly mornings, flat batteries, and darker commuting times with lights used more – and revealing failed bulbs.

Wet weather this Summer may have drawn attention to tyres past their best and losing grip already. The law states there must be at least 1.6mm of tread depth and you can see little wear indicators in the treads that appear smooth with the whole tyre when 1.6mm is reached.

But by then it’s really too late. A 2mm tread depth is really already too little when the weather turns wet and my personal policy has always been to get rid of tyres as soon as they get to 3mm as I want maximum grip in all conditions. You can get a tread depth measuring device for a pound or two but just a 20p piece is possibly all you need.

Stand it in the tyre tread and if the depth matches the rim of the 20p you are at 2mm. Time to bin those tyres and also if they are too old.

Check the tyres

Tyres continue to vulcanise throughout their lives, which means the compounds get harder and less grippy. They then tend to crack in the sidewalls, an MoT advisory. If you get that message at your MoT, or the cracks become obvious, go to your tyre dealer and get new ones, the best you can afford.

Any tyre that’s 10 years old should be thrown away, even if the treads are good because the miles covered are low. You’ll find the date on the side of the tyre such as 38/09, which means the tyre was manufactured in the 38th week of 2009.

Antifreeze also needs checking. It’s an essential corrosion inhibitor in modern engines so the strength needs to be correct. You can get a device to measure this yourself but best to look out for a reliable garage offering a pre-winter check and get them to measure it.

If you need to top up over winter, always use the correct antifreeze mix and not plain water. The same goes for the screenwashers, which need a good additive with antifreeze properties that won’t damage the paint.

Look out for faulty bulbs, too. You can do it yourself but it’s much easier if an assistant walks round the car looking at the lamps as you operate them. Don’t forget the number plate lights as well – easy to miss unless it’s a very dark day.

Check the battery

The battery gets a really tough time in winter and one weak cell is enough to render it inoperative. Again, a good accessory shop or workshop can give it a health check and advise on a suitable replacement, fitting it if necessary for a small charge.

What you don’t want is to have to call out breakdown assistance and pay more by buying a battery from the breakdown van. Shopping around is not easy at the roadside, so is much better done in advance.

Check the paintwork, too. Councils have finished spraying the equivalent of tar and pebbledash on roads, so resulting stone chip damage should be at its worst. If you have stone chips, cover them with wax polish after cleaning them, but don’t rub the wax off and it will form a protective layer.

Then head to a body shop and get a quote for putting the damage right before winter salt can get in and eat away at the metalwork to create a much bigger area of damage.

Finally, wash the car thoroughly and treat it to a good polish outside and vacuum inside so that summer grit doesn’t get ground into the carpets along with winter mud to create an almighty mess.

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