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Is your car as ready for winter as you are?

How ready are you for winter? Got all your woolies out of the under-the-bed storage boxes? Checked the central heating and bought the kids new scarves and gloves to replace the ones they lost last year? If yes is the answer, then you seem pretty well prepared. But there may be one member of the family that you’re forgetting; someone who perhaps feels the cold more than anyone, and without whom you’d be completely lost.

Your car, of course. That loyal little friend who sits outside in all weathers, ready to jump into life the moment you need it. Cars are particularly vulnerable to the rigors of winter, but there are a few steps you can take to make sure that you’re not going to spend your Christmas Eve stranded in a lay-by, or worse, involved in a car accident.

Harsh weather conditions can make seemingly small problems a whole lot worse. Your car is having to work much harder when it’s very cold, and this can really take its toll on the engine and battery. For example, just getting the engine started takes more power than usual, and more frequent use of the heater and demister will start to have an effect on the battery.

And given that most breakdowns are caused by flat batteries and problem tyres, it really does make sense to spend an hour or two running a few essential checks to make sure that you and your car survive the shivery season intact.

Sophie Evans of The Accident Compensation People ( says that the number of people calling to report accidents which have caused injury rises dramatically in the winter months. “It’s not a myth that more car accidents occur in winter than at any other time. Wet and icy roads can make breakdowns even more hazardous than usual. In the darkness, other drivers may not be able to see a car that has had to pull over, and a nasty collision could occur. That’s why we always advise people to make absolutely sure that their car is 100% roadworthy before the worst of the weather begins.”

The onset of winter is a good time to take your car for a check-up, even if you can’t detect any particular problems yourself. Let an expert give it the once over, especially if you don’t happen to know one end of a spark-plug from the other. If, however, you’re slightly more mechanically minded, here’s a quick checklist of some things you should pay attention to - and now would be the ideal time while the weather is still reasonably mild.

  • Given that you’ll be using the heater and lights more often, double check the battery
  • Are your fog lights still operating properly? It’s likely to be while since you’ve had to use them.
  • Make absolutely sure that the tyre grip is at least 1.6mm (the legal minimum). It’s probably wise to make sure that they’re 2.0mmm plus to be safe. Bald tyres and slippery roads are a recipe for complete disaster
  • Ensure that there’s enough anti-freeze in the system. This is essential, so take the car to a garage if you’re not sure how to check yourself
  • Check that your windscreen wash bottle is full and has enough concentrate added to it to stop it freezing
  • Check the brakes thoroughly, not forgetting the fluid, hoses, pads and discs. Again, if you’re not sure, don’t take chances – get an expert opinion

It also makes sense to pack a few extra items into the car which you’ll be very, very grateful for if you should happen to breakdown. A blanket and torch are essential, as is a first aid kit. If you live in, or are likely to travel to, rural areas an implement to dig yourself out of a snowdrift with would be wise. Always make sure you have a mobile phone with you, with an emergency back-up battery tucked away just in case.

If in despite of all your best efforts the worst does happen and you’re involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you don’t have to shoulder the burden of getting life back on track alone. A company like The Accident Compensation People offer specialist advice and support to people who have been involved in a car accident, 24 hours a day. And they can provide expert legal representation if you need to make a compensation claim through the courts.

It’s always best, if you are involved in a no-fault car accident, to get advice as soon as you possibly can, so keeping a note of the web address and telephone number of a specialist accident adviceline like The Accident Compensation People will ensure that help is ready at hand should you ever need it.


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