Regular servicing can save money
THE older the vehicle, the more important it is to ensure it is in good working order when the winter months come around.
Regular servicing will not only ensure better performance, but an efficient engine should also mean lower fuel consumption, not to mention a cleaner exhaust and greater reliability.
Motoring associations reckon that around half of their call-outs could be avoided by regular servicing.
In addition, a specific winter service check should ensure that vehicles are in good mechanical and electrical condition to face whatever the season might bring.
Here's a few key areas to check out:
Tyres should always be carefully checked as worn treads are illegal as well as potentially lethal. Tyre pressure, too, should be regularly monitored. Many garages now offering a winter tyre fitting service where they will sell you a set of winter tyres and store your summer ones free of charge.
Battery failure is one of the most common causes of breakdown – drained from leaving the lights on, as we all do from time to time – or simply dead, wiped-out.
Many recovery patrols now carry new batteries for sale so that they can solve the problem on the spot. A lot of people think that car batteries should last forever – but the lifetime of the battery on average is three years. As soon as starting becomes slow, it's time to think about buying a new one.
Radiators might be sporting leaks or cracks – take a look. It's worth testing the strength of the anti-freeze, if any, in there. Extra glycol-based anti-freeze will boost levels to manufacturers recommended levels.
The washer systems also need to be tested and, of course, before long journeys, water and cleaner should be topped up to ensure optimum visibility whatever the weather.
Windscreen wiper blades should be replaced after a year's use, so check them out for wear and tear.
Exhausts work hard all year, so it's worth including this important piece of equipment on your checklist. A quick check up could also save your car failing its MoT. Exhausts are most likely to split at either the silencer or back box, but usually give little warning of a pending failure.
â Cam Belt
A broken belt could wreck the engine, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage, while the cost of fitting a new belt is relatively low by comparison. There are no warning signs that the belt is about to break. That tends to happen as you try to start the engine and the car simply won't run.
â Shock Absorbers
The danger of driving a car with worn shock absorbers is considerable. Shock absorbers are hidden beneath the car's bodywork and behind the wheels – out of sight and therefore out of mind for many motorists. The effects of worn shocks are serious and include reduced braking efficiency, an increased risk of aquaplaning in the wet and sloppy, loose steering control.
It's well worth making time to wash bodywork regularly, to remove the salt and mud thrown up by filthy roads. This will help avoid rusting and other damage if left to build up – and clean, well-maintained bodywork can add pounds to the resale value of your car.
â Basic precautions
Recommended essentials to keep in the car include: charged mobile phone, shovel, de-icer/ice scraper, blanket, warm clothing, wellingtons, torch, hot drink, chocolate bar and extra fuel.