Is your car winter ready?
With January already providing wind, rain, snow, frost and ice. We need to see and be seen on Irish roads.
With Ireland’s current hazardous weather conditions, we need to be more aware of the importance of visibility on our roads for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
Be it setting off for school and work and arriving home in the dark, our commuting time will be entirely in darkness. While we all share responsibility for the safety on the roads, drivers need to do their part too. BMW drivers can avail of the See and Be Seen initiative and have their lightbulbs replaced for free, meaning they can rest easier knowing that they’re doing their part to make our winter roads safer. Here are the top 10 tips for getting your car winter ready.
Driving in winter weather is harder on your brakes. The more you use your brakes at full capacity the more they will wear down. Your brakes are the most important safety aspect of your car and they should be checked twice a year, or every 20,000 kilometres. With darker roads and rain and snow affecting visibility, you’re bound to rely more on your brakes, so it’s important that you get them, the pads and shoes checked before winter. In icy conditions, the braking distance becomes greater. You’re advised to get into a lower gear earlier and allow the car to slow naturally before gently applying the brake. Needless to say, there are always unexpected happenings that make you ‘slam’ your foot to the floor and when you do, you’ll want your brakes working at maximum.
In colder climates, swapping your tyres for winter tyres is a matter of course. Here in Ireland we’ve had some more extreme winter temperatures and heavy snow falls in recent years and the forecast for this winter is for a long and hard one. We can expect snow fall, and when driving in these conditions the contact between your car and the surface i.e. the tires is paramount. Winter tyres have specialised threads which give better traction on the road in cold temperatures and therefore a lot less likely to skid.
Pedestrians and cyclists can be difficult to see in the road traffic, especially at night and in dark weather conditions. Without wearing something reflective a pedestrian or cyclist is only likely to be visible 30 metres away, in low beam headlights but this can be increased to 150 metres by wearing something reflective. This gives drivers five times the distance to notice them and, more importantly, to avoid them (ETSC). By replacing the bulbs in your car’s headlights you increase the quality of light at low beam, thereby gaining better visibility.
The engine in your car is cooled by water, or rather a water and antifreeze mixture in winter. We don’t usually get the low temperatures in Ireland that forces radiators to burst, but all it takes is one very cold night for it to happen. Make sure your car has the right 50-50 mixture of water and antifreeze, particularly if the car is kept out on the street.
Dirty oil can be very hard on engines in the winter. When starting your car in cold temperatures the engine experiences a sudden increase in pressure. This can have a detrimental effect to the engine so it’s important to have your oil filters checked. The quality of the oil in your engine will be important in winter too. Oil that is too thin won’t protect the engine while oil that is too thick will stop your engine from starting. Extreme low temperatures change the consistency of the oil in your engine to treacle and it may not get through the filter to lubricate the engine.
Cold weather is harder on your battery because the battery’s power output drops, ability to accept a charge drops so your battery doesn’t charge as quickly when you’re driving and the load increases. Heaters, blowers, heated seats, lights, radio, rear screen heater etc. all use more energy and therefore drain the battery. You’re using the map reading light a lot more so you’re more likely to leave it on accidentally. Getting the battery checked could save you heartache on a cold morning or evening.
As you’ll be using the climate control almost every day in your car during winter you should check and if necessary change the cabin air filter. In winter the air filter can get clogged with salt, dirt, bacteria and other debris. The air filter should be changed regularly and doing so will vastly increase the air quality in the cabin for you and your family.
Windscreen cleaning fluid
Check your engine’s screen washer compartment is full and use a fluid with a de-icer function it will come in handy on the cold mornings or more importantly, the cold evenings when you’re returning to your car having parked it outside for a while.
Prepare emergency kit
Hopefully your car won’t break down, but if it does you’ll need to be fully prepared. An emergency kit with reflective triangle, blanket, hi-vis vests, tow rope and jump leads. It’s a very good idea to have a plastic windscreen ice scraper in the car, if you don’t have one of these to hand you can use a plastic card (like a credit card) to remove ice from the windscreen before you set off.
To arrange to have your non-working bulbs replaced, please call your local BMW service centre to arrange a time that suits before January 31st