As the nights start drawing in and the air starts to get an icy bite to it, you will likely find that your elder relatives start complaining about their hip joint and their arthritis. It's not just elderly relatives who don't like the cold and damp though; our cars can also take something of a beating when they're left outside in the cold all night. Meanwhile, the winter weather can also make it tricky for your tires to get a foothold, it can reduce visibility and generally it can make driving much more difficult.
If you and your car want to make through the winter, then you need to come up with a plan and you need to know the best ways to protect your vehicle and to adapt your own driving. Read on and we'll look at some useful tips that might just save you in a bind.
Keeping Your Car in Shelter
The most important thing you can do for your car in the winter is to make sure that it is warm and dry. IF you leave your car outside in the cold on the drive or parked on the road, then you will risk letting it get cold and damp which can increase its chances of rusting or getting an oil leak.
Cold weather can also drain your battery if your car is old and/or you aren't using it regularly and it also means you'll have to scrape ice off of the windshield before you can go anywhere. Keeping your car in a garage can help to prevent all of these things.
What if you can't afford a garage or don't have space for one? In that case there are a few alternatives: you could look a multistory car-park in your area that you could park in, you could ask friends in the area if they have any spare space in your garage, or you could consider using a pop-up garage that can be erected and collapsed more easily. At the very least, you could invest in a 'car pocket', which is essentially like a sleeping bag except aimed at cars: you can take these and simply zip them up over your car to keep it warm and free from damp.
You'll find that keeping your car sheltered might also reduce your insurance premium – which means it may end up actually paying for itself!
How to Combat Ice
Ice on your car can become your nemesis if you're forced to try and remove it for hours every morning before you go anywhere and it might mean you need to wake up half an hour earlier just to get into work on time.
There are a few things you can do though to reduce ice and condensation on your car, or at least to clear it quickly. One tip is to add a little antifreeze to your windshield wiper fluid. This way you can clear some of the ice on the windshield just by switching on the wiper blades.
It's also important to keep antifreeze in your car, along with a scraper that you can use to push the ice and frost off. An alternative implement you can use to do the same job is a credit or debit card which can be useful for getting underneath the ice and lifting it off.
If you can afford it, then investing in a heated windshield might save you a lot of time. These use a mesh made or wire or another conductive material, that runs between the two panes of glass on your windshield and carries a current in order to heat up and dispel ice and condensation. You can also get them for the rear windshield.
If it's really cold, then you might find that your door won't open. In this case, one solution is often to take some mildly warm water (get it from the kettle but don't let it boil) and then to pour it over your car. This can help warm the locking mechanism up enough to move again while also getting the door to ease up.
Protecting Your Battery
Car batteries drain more quickly in the winter so if your battery is a little old and you are forced to keep your car outside, then you need to account for this.
The first thing to do is to try and prevent the battery from draining as much as possible. The best way to do this, is by regularly using the car. Make sure that you occasionally take any cars you own for a spin, even if it's just down to the shops, rather than leaving them to suffer on the drive.
Another tip is to be ready to deal with a flat battery that can threaten to make you late for work. Keep jump leads in your car and learn how to use them so that you can get a jump from a kindly family member or housemate. Likewise, you might want to invest in a car battery charger which plugs into the mains and charges your car slowly.
If you find that you keep needing to charge your battery then you might be better off getting it replaced. Speak to your local garage first though, because you may find that it's actually your alternator that is broken and needs repairing. Replacing the wrong part will only end up wasting your money.
Things to Keep in Your Car
The winter weather can take its toll on your car and it can also make life more difficult when you're driving. It's important then to expect the unexpected and that means stocking your car up with several items that can help in a crisis and that can make driving a little easier.
A shovel – This can be useful if you find yourself snowed in somewhere
Salt – This can help you to get a grip on ice. If your driveway is on a hill then it's particularly important!
A torch – If you do get stranded for whatever reason, then having a torch to hand will be especially useful on darker nights
A blanket – Ditto for a warm blanket that you can huddle underneath
Antifreeze – Don't make the mistake of keeping your antifreeze at home. If your car gets frozen over when you're parked at work or at a friend's then you'll be very glad to have it with you!
Spare lights – You'll be using your headlights and fog lights more often as it gets colder, so keep a few spares in there with you
Driving during the winter is a whole different beast and it's important that you be extra careful in order to avoid prangs and accidents.
The main thing to do is to use what's known as 'defensive driving'. This means hanging back as much as possible from the car in front. Remember that your stopping distance is going to be greater than it otherwise would be and that you need a bit longer to react, so don't tail anybody! The same goes for approaching lights and crossings.
You might find that you struggle to gain speed on slipper inclines. The solution will often be to drive in a slightly higher gear than you normally would do.
Most of all though, make sure not to rush. If it's icy and cold out then you might take a bit longer to reach your destination – so take this into account and leave sooner!