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Top tips for winter care care

You could hardly call it spring yet, but with temperatures plummeting across parts of the country, it looks like the worst of the winter is still here. Now is the time for some basic maintenance to rid your car of the unpleasant effects of the coldest months, and to look to warmer times ahead.

Throughout the months where overnight temperatures drop to freezing point or less, many roads are covered with a layer of salt, which lowers water’s freezing point and prevents the road icing over. Great stuff! Well, not entirely, because just about the worst thing you can coat a car’s exposed metal underside with is salt.

It’s just one of the potential pitfalls of a hard winter on the roads, and now is the time to shake off the dust and refresh your car ahead of spring with these top tips.

  • Clean your car thoroughly with appropriate car-washing products. Washing-up liquid shouldn’t be used because it contains salts that can corrode some metalwork. Try a basic set of sponges and brushes with a bucket of warm water and a hose pipe if you have one. If you prefer to take your car to be washed elsewhere, choose a hand-washing station and ask the attendants to pay special attention to cleaning inside your car’s wheel arches and behind the front and rear bumpers, where salt collects heavily.
  • Check your tyres for damage, like nails sticking into the tread or bulges on the sidewalls. In winter when the roads are generally wet more often, the water acts as a lubricant and makes it easier for sharp objects to push through a tyre – especially when the weight of the car is pushing down on it. Corner by corner lift one wheel off the floor safely using the jack in your car’s tool kit, and check the entire tread carefully. This could potentially save your life.
  • Get rid of all the built-up rubbish in your car, whether it’s drinks bottles, fast food packaging or cans of de-icer. You don’t want it rattling around the cabin while you’re driving, and things like that can become dangerous missiles in an accident. It’s better to find somewhere in a house, garage or shed to store them until next winter.
  • Clean your upholstery thoroughly. With the rotten weather your seats will almost certainly have become ingrained with dirt that you might not have noticed building up. A lot of dark upholstery is very poor at showing how badly it needs a clean. Special interior shampoos are available for not much money and will return your seats to their best. As for your carpets, vacuum them thoroughly until completely clean, especially beneath floor mats.
  • Your fluid levels might be low after a season spent spraying washer fluid onto the windscreen and potentially using oil or coolant. Flip your bonnet up and check the levels of all relevant fluids. Your car’s owner’s manual will help you identify what’s what – and never add fluids if you’re not completely sure what you’re adding and to where you’re adding it. Many fluids need to be diluted, so check the instructions.
  • Winter is a dark time for everyone, with extra strain on headlights and tail lights in particular. There’s a chance any of your lights could have blown so you should check them using the car’s reflection or getting a friend to help. Don’t worry if a bulb has gone; it’s a cheap and often simple thing to fix. Some stores will even fit them for you for an extra fee. Plus, driving around with blown light bulbs could get you a minimum £30 fine – per defective bulb.
  • Other parts of the car have a hard time in winter, like the battery. If you notice anything changing about the way the car behaves, like the starter motor turning over slower when you try to start the engine, it could be a sign of a hidden problem. Take time to pay attention to your car and if anything is abnormal, look into it. Most makes of car have highly useful internet forums dedicated to their ownership, maintenance and troubleshooting.

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Posted by
Matthew Ashton, Director of Public Health for Knowsley and Sefton
on May 11th, 2018



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