Cars have to endure a lot, exposed to the elements so we don’t have to be; they face the worst British weather has to offer. Admittedly they are built for it, and no car is going to crumble in the rain, but years of exposure can begin to take a toll on your vehicle if you don’t regularly maintain it.
With the changing seasons, it’s not just the integrity of your car that can suffer. With the weather capable of changing everything from acceleration to braking time and visibility, driving quality can vary drastically based on the conditions you find yourself in. When the weather is going to be predictably bad (in winter, say), adapting your car can save you from a lot of hassle further down the road.
You can’t outright mitigate the effects of the changing weather, but you can dampen (or should that be dry-en?) the toll it takes on your vehicle and driving.
Winter can be one of the worst times of the year to drive; shorter days, adverse weather conditions and a generally colder temperature to the rest of the year means that trouble is more likely to occur. Should this happen, it can be handy to have a small selection of items in a winter car kit to help out should a malfunction bring you to a halt on the road.
How much you bring is up to you, but some essentials will make things a lot easier should you find yourself stuck. It’s also worth assessing how your local area is affected by winter; in other words, January in Cornwall is very different from January in the Cairngorms. Your winter car kit should reflect this.
A list of things everyone should consider keeping in their winter car kit in their boot throughout the colder months includes:
Just like winter, summer brings with it its own set of challenges. Typically here in the UK, the summer weather remains comfortable and never presents too much of an issue when it comes around. In fact, if you were to find yourself stranded at the side of a road in the UK, summer would probably be the best time to be stuck.
However, summers in the UK can also be unpredictable, with storms and heatwaves making regular appearances. In situations like this, it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if you’re driving with elderly or very young passengers.
When setting off in the winter, particularly on a long journey, it’s essential your car is in top working order. With hazards on the road at an all-time high, it’s good to make sure there aren’t any obvious issues with your vehicle.
The RAC recommends the following acronym when remembering to do your winter car checks: FORCES.
The first letter and first check should be fuel, this one may not come as a surprise, but you should ensure you have enough fuel for your journey. The weather in the winter months can cause trips to become extended due to heavier traffic and stop/start conditions, which means you’ll use more fuel than you expected. So if you find yourself running on fumes, it’s best to account for a little extra usage during the colder months.
The oil in your engine helps the whole engine run smoother, providing lubrication for bearing and moving parts. Without the oil, metal grinds on metal and can cause irreversible (read: expensive) damage. Checking your oil is relatively quick and easy and is something you should do pretty regularly to keep your engine working at its best.
For your winter checks, rubber is twofold, encompassing both your tyres and wiper blades.
Well maintained tyres are essential all year round, but in wet and icy conditions, even more so. While the minimum limit for tyre depth in the UK and Europe is 1.6mm, it’s highly recommended that you don’t let your tyres get this worn, especially in the winter. Instead, try to replace them once they dip below 3mm tread depth.
In adverse weather conditions (let’s face it, winter is one long adverse weather condition), your wiper blades are going to be able to keep up with whatever the elements chuck at it. It’s recommended you change your wiper blades every 12 months. You can check your wipers are working by spraying washer fluid onto the screen and cleaning the windscreen before running your finger along the length of the blades to check the rubber hasn’t perished or split.
Coolant, like oil, is something you should regularly check so you can make sure the fluid levels are appropriately high enough and aren’t dropping suddenly, the latter of which could indicate a leak. Necessary to keep the engine from overheating, which is still possible on a cold winter’s day; you should only check the coolant once the engine has cooled down to save you from the risk of scalding yourself.
Another one that’s essential for when you’re out on the road, your lights and indicators need to be in complete working order not just to keep you safe but other road users around you. Car batteries need replacing every few years, so be sure to have yours checked at a car service.
Make sure your screenwash is not only topped up but is mixed with an antifreeze that works to at least -15 degrees Celsius. With all the salt, grit and dirt that accumulates on the roads in winters, you’ll find yourself using your screenwash more frequently than usual.
In winter, your car’s paintwork needs extra protection from the harsh weather conditions as you drive around. Even when stationary, the elements can begin to take their toll on your vehicle if left outdoors. The main culprit to winter paintwork damage, however, is salt, leaving unsightly marks and causing rust.
When it comes to protecting your car in winter, it’s always good to start with washing your vehicle to remove any preexisting salt and dirt from your car before adding a paint sealant or wax. You can also spray more exposed parts of your vehicle, like the bottom of the body, in an anti-rust spray.
If you have a fabric roof for your convertible, then you should also consider using a hydrophobic roof spray to prevent any unwanted moisture from seeping into your vehicle and damaging the interior.
In the UK, we are perpetually underprepared for driving in snow and ice. Every year it comes around, and every year our roads grind to a halt under an amount of snow that wouldn’t make your average Swede reach for their scarf. Winter tyres are gaining recognition in the UK as part of winter preparation, and for a good reason.
It’s worth noting that winter tyres aren’t designed for driving specifically on ice or snow; they’re not studded or chained but are designed to grip the road better, even in dry conditions. That said, if it is snowing or icy on the roads, winter tyres are the best option for driving safely.
When looking for the best winter tyres, you have to take several factors into consideration, specifically how the winter tyre works in comparison to the summer or regular tyre. A winter tyre has more grooves and deeper ones at that, making it better at clinging to slicker surfaces and dispelling water easier.
The best winter tyres will also comprise a material mix that contains more silica, which means they can remain soft and supple even in below-freezing temperatures. Regular tyres can become rigid in very cold conditions encouraging them to slip across surfaces instead of clinging to them.
A winter tyre’s rubber blocks are designed to vibrate as they’re driven on, shaking loose any snow they may have picked up. Whereas a summer tyre will likely become smooth as the snow compacts in the grooves, reducing its grip on the road further.
On a warm day, there are few things worse than getting into a hot car in summer. Like stepping into a small oven, where every bit of metal feels hot enough to fry an egg on and bare skin sticks to leather seats like chewing gum to pavements.
There are several ways to prevent turning your car into a sweat lodge in the summer; some of our top tips include: