How to get your car winter ready

Make sure your car is ready for the winter weather with our handy tips.

Car maintenance

1 November 2023

Driving in a winter wonderland doesn’t come without it’s hazards, and no one wants to break down in cold, wet weather!

But, don’t worry there’s some simple steps you can take to make sure your car is ready for whatever winter has to offer. Just follow our handy guide to find out more:

Top up your oil

Don’t forget to replace the cap fully, (it’s an easy mistake to make). And, also make sure to not overfill, as this can lead to all sort of engine problems. 

Sometimes a thinner oil is recommended for winter as this will help the engine run smoother. But, you should check your car’s user manual to see if this is suggested for your vehicle. If you need to do this, you can take a look at our guide on how to change your car’s oil.

Check your tyres

The correct tyre pressure is essential when it’s wet and icy. If you’re not sure what the right pressure is (it varies from front to back), you can normally find this information on the inside of the driver’s side door, or on the inside of the fuel cap. The weight of the items inside your car can also affect your tyre pressures, so if you’re carrying heavier items on the road make sure to double check your tyre pressures before travelling.

You can also find it in your driver’s manual. If you’re still struggling, a quick search on the internet should help you find the correct tyre pressure.

Tyre tread is also vitally important. The minimum legal depth in the UK is 1.6mm. If you don’t have a tyre gauge handy, you can use a 20 pence coin. The outer band on the coin is the same as the minimum allowable tread depth. Ideally you should aim for a minimum tread depth of 3mm.

And, don’t forget to check that your spare tyre is in working condition and that you have a jack handy.

Watch your windscreen

Failing to have a clear windscreen carries 3 points and a £100 fine. So, before you set off, make sure your windscreen is completely clear. 

Although it’s tempting, never leave your car unattended with the key in, or on the vehicle while it warms up. If you do, you won’t be covered by your car insurance for any damage or theft.

Check that your wiper blades work. And, top up your windscreen wash with antifreeze or buy some with it already mixed in, as well as investing in some de-icer. Remember, you should never use hot water to defrost your windscreen!

Keep sunglasses handy

It’s a good idea to keep a pair of shades in the glove compartment, as low bright winter sun can easily dazzle you!

Top up your coolant

If you need to refill your coolant, here’s 5 easy steps to do it:

  1. Park your car on even ground, avoiding hills or slopes. Find a time where your car hasn’t recently been used, and when the engine has cooled down completely.
  2. Make sure the coolant you have is compatible with the make and model of your car. Using the wrong coolant can cause damage to your engine, so check your car’s user manual to be sure you’re using the right type.
  3. Some coolants need to be diluted with water first. Check the packaging of your chosen coolant and follow the dilution instructions.
  4. Open the bonnet of your car and find the coolant reservoir – this will likely be a clear, plastic tub full of a brightly coloured liquid and the lid will be marked with a temperature warning.
  5. On the side of the tub, there should be a “min” and “max” level indicator – refill your coolant to this level, taking care to not go over the “max” indicator.

If you choose to top up your coolant yourself, remember to do it when the engine is cool, or you could scald yourself. And if you see the level drop suddenly, get it checked at a garage.

Check your battery and lights

Your car’s battery works a lot harder in winter, so it’s worth getting this checked along with making sure all your car’s lights are working.

Put together a handy pack

Here are a few items for ‘just in case’:

  • Torch and batteries
  • Mobile phone and a power pack to charge it
  • Warm clothing and comfortable walking shoes
  • Blanket
  • Shovel
  • Hi-vis jacket
  • Jump leads
  • Warning triangles – if you break down this should be placed about 45/50 metres behind your car (about the length of about 3½ buses). Please don’t put one out if you’re on a motorway – it’s not safe.
  • Emergency supplies – if there’s a weather warning and you’re advised not to risk a road trip, please do just that. But if driving in snow, hail or icy conditions really is unavoidable then take some extra warm clothes, a hot flask and some snacks.

Then if you do get stuck at least you’ll have something to look forward to.

Don’t run out of fuel

Often drivers assume they have a good few miles to go after the fuel gauge goes into the red, then find themselves stranded on empty. Don’t risk a breakdown by running out of fuel, and always refuel before that gauge goes into the red.

Not many know this, but if you do cause an accident as you’ve run out of fuel, you could end up with 3 points on your licence and a fine.

Check your insurance and breakdown cover

Last but not least, don’t forget to renew your insurance and check that you have breakdown cover as well.

AXA breakdown cover is optional but well worth it should you find yourself on the hard shoulder. In fact we’re very proud to say our breakdown service has recently been recommended by Which?

AXA offer two types of car insurance: third-party, fire and theft and comprehensive. Third-party, fire and theft (TPF&T) car insurance covers you against damage to other people and their property, as well as the repair or replacement of your car if it is stolen or damaged by fire or during theft.

Comprehensive car insurance gives you the benefits of Third-party, fire and theft, with the added benefit of repair or replacement of your car if it is damaged accidentally – even if it was your fault.

When it comes to winter weather, preparation is the key to staying safe and warm. However, should you need help, AXA is always here to get you back to the good stuff, whatever the weather.