Changes in temperature and weather can spell trouble for your vehicle if you don’t think ahead. As we enter the colder months of the year, it is especially important that we all look after our cars and prepare them for winter. 

Is your car ready for the final months of the year? Follow the 10 winter car checks in this list, so that you can get the most out of your car this winter.


An infographic describing the various parts of a car which should be checked during the winter months.


You Should Book Your Car in for a Service

The best thing that you can do for your car is invest in a service in advance of the winter months. This can help you to stay ahead of any issues that could be exacerbated by the cold. 

A professional mechanic can take a look at your vehicle, and ensure it is roadworthy and fit for use in the winter. 


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Winter Health Check


You Should Fill Up Your Fluids 

There are several types of fluids which your vehicle may use, and it is important that you keep these topped up regularly. 

Engine Oil

Many vehicles run dangerously low on engine oil. This is a common cause of breakdowns as there is not enough oil present to lubricate the engine. If you don’t remember to top up or change your oil when necessary, this could cause further damage to the engine, which can be extremely costly to resolve.

If you want to check engine oil levels for yourself, pull out the dipstick and wipe away the oil with a paper towel or cloth. Put the dipstick back in fully, and then take it back out again. The level of the oil should be between the min and max markers.

If you find that it is below, be sure to top it up using the oil which is recommended in your car manual.


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This fluid doesn’t just keep your engine from overheating - it prevents the water in the engine’s cooling system from freezing too. When the water in the cooling system freezes, this can cause damage to the radiator and be expensive to fix. 

Like the engine oil, you need to make sure that the fluid is between the min and max marker. 

In winter, the ideal ratio of water to antifreeze is usually 40% tap water and 60% antifreeze (or 30/70 in extremely cold weather).


Brake Fluid

Whilst brake fluid can’t technically freeze in the same way as the water in your cooling system, brake fluid can thicken and become ineffective. 

To check the level of the brake fluid, locate the reservoir. The location of the reservoir will vary depending on the car you own, so check your vehicle’s manual if you’re not certain. You should also refer to the manual for instruction before doing anything if your car has an anti-lock braking system. 

The level should be between the min and max marker on the side of the reservoir. 

Before you change the brake fluid, be sure to clean the top of the cap carefully - the brakes can be affected if even a tiny amount of dirt falls into the reservoir.



With winter often comes more rain and dirt from the road hitting your windscreen. It’s important to keep your screen wash topped up so that your visibility isn’t restricted, to prevent nasty accidents.

In most vehicles, you won’t be able to have a look at the screen wash fluid level, but you’ll be able to tell when it’s running low as nothing will come out of the sprays.

To top up the liquid, you can buy screen wash from a supermarket. Just make sure you read the label to get the correct concentration of screen wash to water – too much water can cause it to freeze, which is bad news.

Do not fill it up with other liquids, such as engine antifreeze or dishwashing liquid just because you have it to hand - this can do real damage to your paintwork!


You Should Check Your Tyre Tread

When travelling on winter roads, it is super important that your tyres are able to cope with any terrain - be it water, ice, or snow. Without suitable tread, you run the risk of your car aquaplaning, which could put yourself and other drivers at risk. 

As winter rolls round, it may be time to swap out your current tyres for winter tyres. These are tyres made from a hard rubber compound which is designed to grip the road even as temperatures drop. 

You should know that the legal limit for tyre tread is 1.6mm, and it is illegal for your tyre tread to fall below this specification. 

Aside from tyre tread, you should also check your tyre pressure regularly, and ensure that you are using the correct size of tyres for your vehicle. Keep these aspects of tyre maintenance in mind, and you can keep safe whilst driving in a range of weather conditions.


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You Should Check Your Lights

When driving in the dark of winter, you don’t want to find out that your lights aren’t working properly. Not to mention that issues with lights and signalling are two of the main reasons for MOT failure - around 1 in 5 flunk the annual test because their lights either don’t work or are pointing in the wrong direction.

Take a walk around your car, and check that every light, headlight, rear light, fog light and indicator is working correctly.

If you find a cracked lens or blown bulb, then you should consult your user manual to find out how to change one of these bulbs if need be. A garage will be able to change the bulb for you, and may do so for free if you supply the bulb. Just remember to check which bulbs your car needs in your vehicle’s manual.

Now that all of your lights are working correctly, when was the last time you gave them a good clean? Dirt can dull the strength of these lights, so keeping them clean is a must if you want to stay safe.


You Should Check Your Battery

The only thing worse than having no lights whilst driving in the dark? A car with no lights that breaks down in the middle of nowhere because of a faulty battery.

That’s why it is so important that you make yourself aware of your car battery’s health. This is especially true in winter, as your battery will require more of a current to start up a cold engine, whilst more electric equipment - lights, wipers, and heating - is also in use at this time of year.  

Remember, seemingly insignificant actions like not having driven your car in a while can have an impact on your battery. Your battery can last you between 3 and 5 years with proper care. 

A professional mechanic will be able to check your battery for you, so that you can curb any potential breakdowns. 


You Should Check Your Windscreen

A good car clean is never a bad idea. To avoid poor vision and glare in winter, you need to clean your windscreen regularly so that you can enhance visibility whilst driving in low sun. 

Use a good glass cleaner to clean the outside of the screen, and wipe this with a clean microfibre cloth. Buffing the windscreen with the cloth can help to reduce streaks. 

As for the interior, spray the glass cleaner directly onto the clean cloth, and buff out any streaks for a squeaky-clean finish. Don’t forget to clean your wipers too! You can clean them with hot soapy water or windscreen wiper cleaner.


You Should Make an Emergency Winter Car Kit

You never know when you might find yourself in an emergency - making sure your car has everything you need can put your mind at ease. 

Building a winter car breakdown kit can help you to handle any potential situation that comes your way. You should always keep your driver’s licence, vehicle registration, proof of insurance and vehicle handbook in the car in case you need them. Other necessities include water, snacks, blankets, torches, and anything else you or your car may need in the event of a breakdown or emergency. When it comes to winter, you may also want to keep warm clothes, boots, ice scrapers, a first aid kit and a high-vis jacket in the car.


You Should Plan Ahead

As we go about our daily lives, it can be easy to forget the little things. That’s why it always pays to plan your journey ahead of time - even if you’re just heading out to the shops. It is always worth checking the weather forecast and traffic in your area before setting off, and having a back-up route in mind in the event you are diverted. 

When the weather is particularly treacherous, perhaps consider delaying your journey until a later date if you can. If this isn’t a possibility, then make sure that you take your car in for a regular service to ensure that your tyre tread is prepared to make the journey.


You Should Invest in Breakdown Cover

When you find that your car has unexpectedly broken down on the road during winter, then you can call a breakdown cover company to help you. The RAC has a variety of different breakdown cover options to choose from. 

If your phone is out of battery or you can’t find it, then you should look for an emergency phone which you can use. In the meantime, try and move your vehicle off of the road if you aren’t in a safe place, or pull your car to the left and keep your wheels pointed to the left. In the winter emergency car kit you have previously assembled, you should find a high-vis jacket which you can wear whilst you put on your hazard lights.


You Should Pay Attention to Warning Lights

With so many warning lights that could flash on our dashboard, it’s no wonder that many of us don’t even know what they mean! Taking some time to familiarise yourself with what the lights on your dashboard signify can help you to understand exactly what your car needs.

When you first notice a light on your dashboard, you should do something about this as soon as possible. Ignoring a warning light could lead to a potentially costly repair if you continue to drive without locating the source of the problem. Whether it’s your DPF warning light or your engine management light, it is always best to have your car looked at by a garage so that they can find and fix the issue for you. 

We hope that the 10 winter car checks listed in this blog can help to prepare you for the colder months. When in doubt about your car’s health, book in for a car service so that you can drive with confidence. 


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