Of all the seasons, winter can be the most taxing for your car. Not only can weather conditions change unexpectedly, but the chill in the air can have a significant impact on your car. While we’re all hoping to avoid a repeat of past weather events like the Beast from the East, some combination of snow, frost or ice is to be expected meaning car maintenance becomes even more important if you want to avoid a waiting in the cold for breakdown assistance.
Luckily for you, there are a few simple things you can do to make sure your car is winter-ready and reduce your risk of a breakdown. Remember, you can purchase breakdown cover for just €10 per month with the AA.
How To Reduce The Risk of a Winter Breakdown
If you do require breakdown assistance, however, remember that our AA patrols are available nationwide 24/7, 365 days a year.
- Battery and Electrics
Battery related faults are one of the most common reasons which lead to our members availing of roadside assistance. Winter driving can be more draining on your car battery as you’ll be using your lights, heaters and wipers much more than you would at other times of the year. While this isn’t a major cause of concern if your battery is in good condition, where your car battery is older (on average batteries rarely last longer than 5 years) or you have found your car slow to start on occasion this additional power usage may be too much for your battery to handle.
Replacing one near the end of its life can save a lot of time and inconvenience at the side of the road. Meanwhile, being energy conscious during your driving can also help your battery. For example, avoid running electrical systems any longer than necessary – turn the heater fan down and switch the heated rear window off once windows are clear.
If you do find your car struggling to start on a cold morning this winter then we recommend that you use the starter in short five-second bursts if the engine doesn’t start quickly, leaving thirty seconds between attempts to allow the battery to recover. However, if you have repeat instances of your car failing to start it’s better to have the battery replaced than continuing to rely on this method.
A continuous squealing noise as soon as the engine is started is a sign the water pump is frozen – it’s the fan belt slipping on the pulley. The cylinder block could be frozen too. Stop the engine immediately and allow it to thaw out. This may take several days unless the car can be moved to a heated garage.
If the car begins to overheat a few miles from home it’s likely that the radiator has frozen preventing coolant from circulating. Stop straight away to avoid serious damage and allow the radiator to thaw.
Most modern cars use long-life antifreeze – it’s important to use the right type and avoid mixing different types. Check the handbook or ask a dealer for advice.
We recommend at least 3mm of tread for winter motoring, and certainly no less than 2mm. While the minimum legal requirement is 1.6mm of thread, during the icy weather we may encounter during the winter having some extra thread of your tyres is vital.
Similarly, if you’ve ever heard the old wives’ tale that reducing your tyre pressure will give you more grip then you’re better off ignoring it. Not only does this not work, it also reduces your car’s stability. Don’t reduce tyre pressures to get more grip – it doesn’t work and reduces stability.
If you do a lot of driving in higher grounds or we experience harsher weather conditions, it may be worth considering changing to winter or all season tyres – these have a higher silica content in the tread which prevents it hardening at lower temperatures, and therefore gives better grip in cold wet conditions.
Along with all these precautions for car, you too need to be winter ready to stay safe on roads and here are some helpful winter tips that can help you during such challenging times.
Unfortunately, breakdowns aren’t 100% avoidable, but taking the steps above can help reduce your risk. The good news is that if you your car does break down AA Roadside Rescue is ready to assist you 365 days a year. Just call us on 0818 667788.
AA Roadside Rescue Membership is available online from just €10 per month.