Car Care

Get your car winter ready

The mornings are getting much cooler, the days are shorter and winter-like showers have arrived.

Winter tends to be the most treacherous season to drive in, so now is the time to make sure your vehicle remains up to the task to get you and your occupants safely from A to B.


Check that all your lights are working, and that all your lenses are clean, not damaged and free of moisture. This is to ensure you can see and your vehicle can be seen this winter. 



They might not be the most glamorous of parts on your car, but the band of rubber that sits around your wheel is what could save your life. It's critical to check your tyres regularly.

tyre check image101

Tyre depth is important to maintain traction in adverse winter conditions. While the legal minimum limit is 1.5mm, if your last WoF check revealed that your tyres were close to the limit, then it’s paramount that you think about replacement before winter really sets in.

Water is dispersed using the deep channels that run the length of the tyre and the less tread available, the more chance a tyre/vehicle could aquaplane (slide uncontrollably on a wet surface).

Comprehensive advice for motorists on when your tyres have given up can be found here.


Obviously, vision is vital when driving. Moist conditions combined with greasy screens – which are usually caused by people rubbing a fogged-up screen clear with their bare hands - often causes a smeared screen in certain light conditions, which can hinder visibility.

Make sure you clean your windscreen and all interior glass properly and remove any grease with detergents. If you don’t have any detergents, using a household glass cleaner and newspaper works really well too. Products like Rain-X Anti-Fog and Rain-X Glass Water Repellent are available to buy at AA Shop.

Paying a small price to replace your noisy wiper blades can make a huge difference. These often smear the windscreen when it’s raining, making it difficult to see the road clearly. Similarly, if you have any windscreen damage be sure to get this repaired or replaced as the cold weather could make it worse, and even damage the rubber on your wiper blades.


Winter oil explained

Fluids can freeze in sub-zero temperatures, so radiator antifreeze concentration will need to be up to scratch. It’s also helpful to add detergent to your windscreen washer reservoir and leave some room so you can top-up with warm water if it freezes overnight.  

The viscosity index of oil is rated by its resistance to flow. So, let’s use 10w-30 as a popular example. This has two viscosity grades - 10w and 30 - which gives the best of both summer and winter viscosity characteristics, and eliminates the need for both ’winter’ and ’summer’ oils as used in past. ‘W’ stands for winter, and the lower the number beside it represents the better the oil’s cold start performance.

The number following it must be the higher temperature viscosity, taken at a temperature of 100 degrees. The viscosity limit is set and all oils (regardless of brand) with a viscosity number must achieve these limits. Once again, the lower the number, the thinner the oil - a 30 weight oil is thinner than a 40 weight oil at 100 degrees, and so on. This is quite important, as engine oils naturally thicken as they cool and thin as they are heated.

Thin, low viscosity oils flow easier to protect engine internal parts at cold temperature. Thick, high viscosity oils are typically better at maintaining film strength to protect engines at high temperatures.

Cold weather service prep

It’s also important to consider the maintenance of your car when preparing for the winter season. Your engine will be enduring colder temperatures and, along with that, it will experience increased wear.

Make sure you get your car serviced, ensuring all your vehicle’s fluids are checked, along with things like tyres and wipers. There are 40 AA Auto Centre and over 150 AA Approved Repairer sites nationwide for all your vehicle servicing needs.

In cold and wet weather, your car’s battery tends to be pushed to its limit, which can cause it to fail sooner. If you have any doubts about your battery’s performance, we recommend getting it tested and replaced if necessary at your nearest AA Auto Centre or AA Approved Repairer.

It’s also worth keeping a set of quality protected jumper cables in case of a breakdown which could leave you (or someone not as well prepared as you) stuck in sticky situations. 

Make sure your child is winter ready too

It is not recommended to dress children in bulky clothing such as winter coats and snowsuits underneath the harness of a car seat. This is because in the event of a car crash, the fluffy padding in the coat compresses from the force, creating additional space under the harness. This extra space can cause the child to slip through the straps and be ejected from the seat. Here are some pointers for how you can keep your kids safe.

  • Dress your child in skin-tight layers. Start by layering on tight, legging, or long-sleeved bodysuits at the bottom. Next, put on some trousers and a more comfortable top, such a knit sweater or a thermal shirt.
  • Mittens and socks are important. These keep kids warm without getting in the way of the car seat belts. Consider half-gloves with open fingers if your kid is a thumb sucker, as damp mittens will actually make your child colder rather than warmer.
  • Make sure the straps of the car seat harness are tight. Even though your child may appear to be warmly wrapped up in the car seat, wearing several layers may make it challenging to properly adjust the harness. The car seat harness must be adjusted until it fits securely against your child's chest, you should be unable to pinch the harness.
  • Coat or blanket over the straps is ok. After your child is belted in, you can lay a blanket on top of the harness straps or put their winter coat on backwards (over the buckled harness straps). 
  • Emergency bag will be your best friend. We recommend storing additional blankets, dry clothes, gloves, and hats, as well as non-perishable snacks in your car, in case of a roadside emergency or if your child gets soaked during a winter outing.

If you found this article helpful, click here to see what winter driving tips and techniques our vehicle experts have for you...

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