5 Checks to prepare your car for Autumn
Autumn’s here and your car’s not ready for the cold months ahead. You don’t know where to start and the nights are getting shorter.
We hear you - and we have got some good news too because there are only five checks you need to do to prepare your car. They’re dead easy to do and you don’t need to get on all fours with a jack.
Right then, best get to it:
The importance of your car’s battery cannot be overstated. It’s the heart of your car - the component that keeps everything else powered up.
Cold temperatures make batteries work harder. It can take up to twice as much current to start a cold engine as a warm one. And so, a healthy car battery is as important to get you moving as it is to power your heater and favourite radio station.
Car batteries are tested with a multimeter. It’s a simple process. You measure DC voltage by connecting the meter to both battery terminals (red to positive, black to negative). The resting voltage of a car battery should be 12.6v minimum. If your battery is less than that, it will need replacing. Double check with a garage to make sure.
2.Tyre tread depth
Your tyres are what prevent aquaplaning when you drive through standing water on the motorway and what stop you from skidding when you brake hard. Autumn is a tricky time for tyres because the roads are wet and dry. Add dead leaves, frost and ice into the mix, and you have a recipe for a roundabout shunt.
Check the tread depth of each of your tyres (we do this because tyres can wear differently on each corner). The legal minimum is a tread depth of 1.6mm, but we recommend a minimum of 2.0mm so your tyres perform properly.
The best way to check your tyres is with a digital tyre tread gauge. Don’t have one? You can check tread depth using a 20p coin. Insert it into the tread. If you can’t see the outer band of the coin, then your tyres are above the legal limit of 1.6mm.
Tyres also have tread bars between the tread, so you can visually see if your tread is running low. If in doubt, call into a tyre centre and ask them to assess your tyre’s condition.
You should check your tyre pressures periodically, at least once a month and before every long journey. Having the correct inflation pressure is essential for tyre performance. You should check tyre pressures when your tyres are cold, i.e. before a journey, and not during it or right after it.
If you check your tyres when they’re hot, add 4 to 5 psi to the pressure your vehicle manufacturer recommends.
You can usually find the manufacturers recommended tyre pressures for your vehicle in your handbook, inside the fuel filler cap or on a sticker inside the driver’s side door. It will read in psi, bar or both.
You can’t visually check brakes without removing the tyre, and in any case, you might not know what a worn brake pad looks like. So, do a brake test on a wet road in safe conditions by finding a deserted place. A car park is perfect. Get up to 25mph and slam on your brakes. If the brakes squeal, squirm or shudder your car, they need checking.
It’s also important not to neglect brake fluid. Manufacturers recommend a brake fluid change every two years or 20,000-miles. For example, Toyota says you should change it every two years, regardless of mileage.
Only qualified technicians can flush and change brake fluid, so you’ll want to pop into a garage for this.
Brake fluid degrades over time, it is important to y find out when the brake fluid was last changed, and if it does need changing, book it in before you drive away.
5.Wiper blades (and washer fluid)
Dirt, ice, snow, salt and grime take their toll on wiper blades. You’ll find yourself squirting your windscreen every day when the roads are wet, so you need both functioning and clean wipers to keep your windscreen crystal clear.
If your windscreen wipers don’t clear all the dirt or water off your windscreen, they might need cleaning. Run a microfibre cloth damped with a little vinegar along the length of the rubber blade to clean it. If this doesn’t help, you will need new wiper blades.
Make sure your windscreen washer fluid is topped up too. Use a windscreen cleaning solution that resists freezing so it doesn’t become unusable at sub-zero temperatures. If you don’t have any, make up a solution of one part white vinegar to ten parts water. A litre of solution will last you a few weeks in autumn all being well.