What is the winter car checkup?
As mentioned before, the winter car check is a list of tests and checks that will be performed on your car to make sure it's ready for winter.
Let's just say that cars are a bit like us humans. Many issues that may go unnoticed in the summer tend to come up quickly as soon as fall begins and the cold of winter arrives.
We humans need the vaccine to combat the winter flu. Our cars, on the other hand, need regular maintenance and a winter check-up.
Low temperatures put extra strain on the engine, which must therefore be in perfect condition to ensure trouble-free operation.
If it is unpleasant to break down during the summer months, even less so when outside temperatures reach 0 degrees Celsius. To avoid this situation, it is highly recommended to carry out a winter check of your beloved car.
What checks do you do in the winter check of your car?
In order to prepare your car in the best possible way during the cold winter months and make sure that it doesn't leave us stranded, you need to make several checks. Since there is no law regulating this, the winter check of your car will not be identical everywhere and therefore may vary from one garage to another.
However, any serious professional will certainly check the following 7 components or parts of the car:
- Brake discs and pads
- Engine coolant (and antifreeze)
- Window washer fluid (and antifreeze)
- Windscreen wipers
- Lights and fog lights
1) Checking the tyres
Tyres are to all intents and purposes the shoes of our car. Just as we wear rubber-soled shoes to avoid slipping, winter requires proper shoes for our cars as well. These shoes are in fact the winter tyres.
We remind you that from November 15, 2019 the obligation of winter tires (or chains on board) until April 15, 2020 (see our article on the change of tires 2019).
Although on-board chains are alegal alternative to winter (or snow) tyres, they are still by far the safest option.
Chains sleep in the trunk all the time, and snow tires help us improve our road grip every time we use the car.
During the winter service of the car, the mechanic will have to check the tread wear to make sure it is well above the legal limit of 1.6 mm. Personally we always recommend not to reach this minimum limit because, more than the fines, we should be afraid of losing control of our car in the wet.
2) Battery control
If the tyres are crucial to ensure safe driving in wet and snowy conditions, the battery is essential to start the car in the first place.
If the battery is on the ground or dead we can forget about starting the car unless someone helps us jump start it with cables (find out how to jump start a car with a dead battery with cables here).
In the winter cold, battery fluids tend to conserve energy less efficiently, reducing the life of the charge. For this reason, you often find yourself with a dead battery during the cold months.
However, if you have more than one car or perhaps have a few older cars and don't use them in the winter, you should remember to turn them on and run them for a few minutes.
This is the only way to prevent the battery from draining to the point where it is no longer rechargeable.
To prolong battery life, it is advisable to turn off all utilities (headlights, AC, heating, etc.) and wait a few seconds before turning off the car. This way the battery will have a little more charge to turn on when we use the car again.
3) Checking brake discs and pads
Having a well functioning brake system is always essential. But it's even more so when the road is wet, damp or evensnowy, which is very likely in the winter months.
During the winter check, the mechanic should make sure that the brake pads and discs are not excessively worn.
If they're too worn, braking may not respond and you risk becoming a big bowling ball ready to hit any car, pedestrian or thing in your path.
It may seem strange, but brake system wear should also be monitored for those who only use the car in the city. Between weaving rails, sidewalks and pedestrians everywhere, in fact, very little is enough to cause serious damage.
4) Check the engine coolant
Engine coolant is essential to keep the hottest areas of the engine at the right temperature.
As well as topping it up with water, during the winter months the fluid should be mixed 50% with a dedicated antifreeze.
This is because if you leave the car parked outside overnight, the coolant can freeze and not flow properly into the system.
It is not enough to wait for the heat of the engine to melt the frozen fluid. The engine must be properly cooled as soon as it is started. Any delay can cause damage to the seals, which can overheat and become damaged as the fluid thaws.
Any good mechanic will then mix some of the fluid with the antifreeze.
5) Checking Windshield Wipers
Rain, fog and snow: all conditions that reduce visibility when driving.
One of the least considered and most underestimated aspects by motorists are the windscreen wipers.
They become irreplaceable in allowing us to drive safely and have good visibility.
6) Check the windshield washer fluid
Once we have checked the state of wear of the brushes as a second thing we must make sure that the washer fluid is mixed with the antifreeze fluid.
This becomes essential to prevent frost from forming on the windscreen, totally preventing us from seeing what is in front of us.
Unfortunately, if the washer fluid is not combined with the antifreeze, it will be difficult to remove the bottom layer of ice without damaging or scratching the windshield.
7) Check the lights and fog lights.
Last but not least.
The last, but not least, check that the mechanic should perform on our car is precisely that of the lights.
How many times have we driven at night in heavy fog or rain and noticed, or rather not noticed, some cars with defective headlights.
Besides being a danger to all other drivers, driving with defective or malfunctioning headlights puts us in danger in the first place.
Let's not overlook fog lights, which, as the name suggests, are very useful for maintaining visibility on the road in foggy or heavy rain.