Where is the year going? It’s already back to school time, and there are pumpkins in some supermarkets! Apparently summer officially ended on the last day of August according to the Met Office.
It won’t be long before the weather goes from post-summer comfort to a little more brisk (or should I say really cold!). Driving safely during the autumnal months requires a few changes to the way you drove during the summer. First things first, however: your car needs some attention, and here’s our top 10 tips:
1. CHECK THE BRAKES AND TYRES:
Worsening weather and associated road conditions require good stopping power. That means good brakes and tyres. If the tyres have wear bars showing, say the experts, you need to replace them. Most good brake and tyre shops will inspect the brakes and tyres at no charge. If your tyres are getting close to the 1.6mm limit, consider changing them anyway, as greater tread depth improves stopping distances.
Also check the tyre pressure. Tyre pressure drops when the outside temperatures plummet. Keep the pressure at levels recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
2. CHECK THE LIGHTS
Walk around the outside of the car and check the operation of all lights: headlights, taillights, parking lights, brake lights and emergency flashers. Replace all broken bulbs and those that have stopped working. Make sure all lights are clean.
3. CHECK AND/OR REPLACE WIPERS BLADES.
The purpose of wiper blades is to completely clear the windshield. Cracked or worn blades won’t do an adequate job. Wipe the blade with a damp cloth or sponge, then check the blade’s rubber to ensure it is flexible and operate the wipers to see that the blades clear the glass. Replace worn blades. Don’t forget the rear wiper blade!
4. MAKE SURE YOUR HEATER/AIR CON WORKS.
Driving with an improperly working heater or air con unit isn’t fun or safe. Driving with fogged-up windows is simply not safe. Check front and rear window demisters to ensure they’re working properly. Air con units can lose pressure, and it is inexpensive to get them recharged. If they are faulty, have your heater and air con systems repaired.
5. GET YOUR CAR BATTERY CHECKED
In cold weather, your battery needs to be fully charged in order to start the car. Have the battery and charging system inspected by a trained technician who can replace it if required. If you see signs of corrosion on the battery terminals or cable ends or if you spot loose connections, your battery needs attention. A lot of places can check this for you free of charge.
6. UNDER THE BONNET
Checking under the bonnet regularly can often prevent breakdowns. Admittedly with many modern cars you can’t see much these days! Look for leaks. If you can, squeeze the hoses and replace any that are spongy-feeling or brittle. Inspect the underside of drive belts for fraying and replace as required. If you’ve noticed any unusual engine noises, experienced sputtering or other engine problems, have your car looked at by a qualified person and make any necessary repairs. It’s so much better than standing on the roadside freezing your bits off whilst waiting for a breakdown service, don’t you think?
7. CHECK YOUR OIL
Check your oil is at a good level and it has been changed in the last 12 months.
8. Coolant System
It seems strange to talk about coolant when the weather is cold, but your engine needs to be kept from overheating. A lot of cars now have an expansion tank instead of topping up the radiator, so it is really easy to check the level of coolant. Getting your garage to check the antifreeze concentration in the coolant is a good idea too. You don’t want your car to have frozen “bits” do you?
9. CHECK WASHER LIQUID
It’s normally very easy to check your washer liquid, and hopefully, you check this regularly. Look for the (usually) blue cap and see if you can see where the level is in the plastic tube/reservoir. The screen wash solution needs to be mixed differently according to the season and there is normally a label on the bottle to guide you.
10. GIVE YOUR CAR A GOOD CLEAN (& WAX IF NECESSARY)
It’s part of what we describe as car sympathy in our Progress Assessment Sheets. Giving your car a through clean will get rid of the summer fly cemetery, and you can see any defects in the bodywork/paintwork. Cleaning the inside of the car will make it a nicer place to be. Paying attention to cleaning the inside of the windscreen (which you should be doing regularly), will also assist you now the sun is much lower.
Readers who are advanced drivers, will be well familiar with doing these checks very much more regularly as part of their pre drive checks. If you are unsure how to do any of these things, it may be best to try one or some of the following …
- Read your car manual – yes seriously!
- Speak with the Tutors at Advanced Drivers East Midlands
- Take your car to an approved garage.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Safe Driving.