Expert advice: simple DIY jobs to keep your car working in winter weather

Simple DIY car jobs

Many garages offer to perform free winter checks on cars

No one wants to be stranded in winter, especially when we rely on our cars for visiting family and friends. Equally, we all want to spend time enjoying ourselves, rather than getting grimy carrying out car maintenance. That’s why drivers will like these simple DIY jobs that will keep cars in tip top condition in cold weather without taking hours to do. 

Checking your car’s fluids is easy

Cars are a bit like people: they need fluids to flourish. And checking that your car has enough essential fluids is simple. Look in your car’s handbook and it’ll tell you where the brake fluid bottle and the expansion tank for the coolant are. In the vast majority of modern cars they’ll have markings on them showing the maximum and minimum levels. All you have to do is make sure the fluid is sitting between the two. If it isn’t your car needs attention. Simple. And while you’re at it, follow Our guide to checking the engine oil too.

Get the experts to work on your car for free

The car industry is unusual in that you can get something for nothing. A large number of main dealers plus the fast-fit centres offer free winter checks. These usually involve looking at the condition of tyres, fluids, lights and bodywork. Some will top up fluids, offering up to 500ml, for free. Of course, their motivation is simple: they’re hoping you’ll need a new set of tyres or a light bulb and as you’re there anyway, you might as well get the work done with them.

However, if you do your own ‘winter check’, as I recently outlined, you can use their free check to assess you car’s brake wear. But more importantly, most of these checks will inspect the health of the battery. As this is the most frequent cause of breakdowns, ensuring yours has got plenty of life left in it could prevent trouble in the future.

Why it’s best to check car tyre pressures at home

You’re at the garage filling up with fuel anyway so you might as well check your tyres’ air pressure, right? Regularly checking is a good habit to get into. But although it’s much better than doing nothing, the garage isn’t necessarily the best place to do this.

For a start, the tyre inflators on garage forecourts lead a hard life. And many aren’t calibrated very frequently so their accuracy is questionable. If you do use them, it’s worth checking with your own gauge so that you know you’re inflating your tyres the correct amount. The likes of Halfords or Amazon offer a wide range. Then there’s the fact that you’ve driven to the garage. As your tyres get warmer, the air inside them expands so you won’t get an accurate reading when you’re at the garage. That’s why it’s always best to check their pressure when the car has been at rest for a couple of hours.

Stop your locks freezing up

If the temperature drops dramatically this Christmas, a frozen door lock is one of those things that’s really easy to prevent. One tip I read somewhere was to put a fridge magnet over the outside of the lock. I’m not sure whether that will work or not so here’s a more reliable method. The reason locks freeze is because of moisture in them. So if you spray in something to drive that moisture away you prevent the problem occurring. Lock experts claim silicone sprays are the best for this because they ease mechanisms without leaving any oily deposits behind.

Don’t forget the bonnet catch either. If the cold weather kills your car’s battery, you want to be able to access it easily without having to deal with a bonnet that’s jammed shut. As with the fluid checks, it’s the kind of thing that takes seconds to do but could save hours of aggravation.

Read more: Stay out of trouble on winter roads, with these expert driving tips

Green_Flag_Nick_Reid* Nick Reid is a fellow of the Institute of the Motor Industry and head of transformation at Green Flag


One comment on “Expert advice: simple DIY jobs to keep your car working in winter weather

  1. James Bergman 02/05/2016 4:17 PM

    I try to avoid all of these problems by keeping the car I drive most often in the garage though I appreciate the tip about using a silicon spray in my locks. The garage normally keeps it the locks from freezing over, but it can still get pretty cold. I also always tend to need to do repairs in the winter. Portable space heaters are a life saver if you have to do any work on your car in the winter.

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