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Car maintenance must-dos for summer and winter

Your car needs special attention when facing extremes of hot or cold weather so our summer and winter maintenance tips will ensure you’re ready for anything.

Your car will always need a bit of care and attention throughout the year to make sure it’s in tip-top condition. However, it’s worth noting that it needs special attention during the warm summer and cold winter months.

Follow our tips and you should be ready to face anything the summer sun brings.

Summer vehicle maintenance tips

Air conditioning system

Aircon takes the warmth and moisture out of the air inside the car, replacing it with cooler, more pleasant air. Many modern units can also help reduce pollen levels, thanks to clever filters, which is a benefit for anyone in the car suffering from hay fever.

Because moisture passes through the air conditioning system, bacteria and mould spores can build up in the system if it hasn’t been used regularly, while the pollen filter might also be blocked and need replacing. Most systems also lose around 15% of their refrigerant gas every year, so it's also a good idea to have your air conditioning serviced every two years to keep it in peak condition.

Engine coolants and fluids

The AA estimates that around six million motorists could face repair bills in excess of £1,000 because they don’t check the coolant levels of their car’s engine regularly enough.

Once a week, owners should therefore check the level of the car’s coolant, which not only prevents overheating in the summer, but also freezing in the winter, as well as corrosion in the engine. You should do this check when the engine is cold, making sure that the level is between markers indicating the minimum and maximum levels.

But engine coolant isn’t the only fluid that should be checked regularly in summer. The brake, clutch and power steering fluids in your car also need to be monitored – once a month at least, or before a long trip. Speak to your mechanic to get advice in how to check these on your car.

And even if it doesn’t rain as much in the summer (theoretically, at least), you’ll be cleaning splatted insects off your windscreen, so top up your washer bottle frequently.

Tyres

The air pressure in your tyres is affected by increases in air temperature, so hot weather can lead to their overinflation. This means tyres get worn quicker and a greater strain is placed on any weak areas, so punctures and blowouts are more likely. 

The key thing to remember is to check tyre pressures regularly (aim to check them every couple of weeks), especially if the mercury starts rising, and look out for any tread wear and defects in the sidewalls.

Winter tips

Your car battery

Battery problems are more likely in winter as the cold weather takes its toll on its ability to create power. At the same time, it's called upon to do more work, thanks to the increased use of lights, heaters, etc. 

If you find that your car is taking a while to start, the battery probably needs replacing (they tend to last around five years). In the meantime, fire up the ignition in five-second bursts then wait 30 seconds before trying again.

Visibility 

In winter, there are two issues with visibility: what you can see and whether your car can be seen.

The first means that you need to keep your windscreen clear at all times (never start driving before it’s fully clear). From the inside, use the air conditioning to demist the windscreen as it's faster and reduces condensation. To keep the outside clear, you’ll need wiper blades in good condition so replace them if they’re worn. The screen wash might also need a special winter additive to stop it from freezing.

To make sure your car is seen by others, check all the lights are working correctly and get any faulty bulbs replaced quickly. Bear in mind that you’ll need to use your lights more in winter too. A good rule of thumb is that even if it’s not the evening or night-time, when you have to use your windscreen wipers, you should switch your lights on too… 

Antifreeze

A bottle of antifreeze is only a few quid, but it’s well worth the money as it could save your car’s engine from freezing up and cracking – which will cost you thousands to fix.

In winter, aim for a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze which will protect your engine at temperatures well below freezing. If you’ve been topping the water levels up over the summer, this will dilute the level of antifreeze so you should top it up as autumn hits. If in doubt, you can pick up an antifreeze tester for a few pounds at a car accessories store.

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