How to prepare your car or motorcycle for winter
Cold and potentially icy conditions can have an adverse effect on cars or motorcycles, so both will require regular maintenance in order to function at an optimum level. This is particularly important in November, December and January, given the weather.
However solid preparation can lessen the impact of chilly conditions on cars or motorcycles. Taking an attentive approach towards seasonal maintenance could significantly reduce your chances of breaking down or causing accidents.
The same routine checks can be used for a range of vehicles and more often than not, performing them will save you time and money in the long term. So if you're looking to prepare your motorcycle or car for the winter chill, here are a few tips to get you started...
Check your levels
Most areas of your vehicle won't require frequent attention, although your oil level must receive regular top-ups to reach its recommended volume. Oil is considered the blood flow of your engine and a low level will inflict damage on the system within. This risk is heightened during winter, as icy conditions cause your vehicle to work harder and deplete fuel levels at a faster rate.
While you've got your hands dirty it might be worth checking whether your brake, power steering and coolant levels could also do with some attention. A drop in temperature outside will be sure to test their reserves and you may not have noticed this from the driver's seat.
Oversee fuel care
Like the average human requires a hearty breakfast on cold winter mornings, cars and bikes need their own source of energy and a clean digestive system in order to run.
It's always best to keep your tank over halfway full. Doing so will prevent moisture from freezing, while the last thing you want in the cold weather is to run out of fuel and be stuck on the hard shoulder.
Sudden outbreaks of rain combined with a drop in temperature will create icy or slippery roads. As the only part of the car or bike that comes into contact with this surface, a well-kept set of tyres will be crucial to your stability and handling.
To avoid a slip, be sure to check your tyres' pressure and wear. Start by assessing the tread, which disperses loose water and snow from the roads, helping you to maintain control. Exceeding the usual guideline of 1.6 millimetres (mm), the tread should be a minimum of 2mm in depth during winter. However, an even deeper level of 3mm will further reduce your chance of skidding.
Tyre pressure is also important for winter driving. Check your tyres' levels at least once every fortnight to ensure they're inflated to recommended levels. These will be listed in your vehicle's own manual or guidebook.
Check your battery
For riders and drivers alike, flat batteries are one of the most common reasons for motorists seeking breakdown assistance over winter. Sub-zero temperatures alone can temporarily freeze a battery, although a drained power source will often be the result of additional strain from lights and other electrical components.
This area of maintenance will require you to use your electronics sparingly, turning switches to 'off' as soon as vision or heat is restored. It also might be worth replacing your battery before winter starts to take its toll. A unit returning around 75 per cent charge would usually be considered safe during summer, although added pressure may lead to its early demise.
Confront lingering issues
Any problems you have with driveability should be flagged up and examined as early as possible. Rough starts and stalling during winter will inform you that your car or bike isn't fully prepared for the change in conditions. However, replacing dirty air filters and fuel may be a little beyond your capabilities as an amateur mechanic.
To avoid all doubt, raise any lingering issues with a trained professional. Addressing key problems early on should provide you with reassurance and your vehicle with smiles for miles.