Skip to main content

Top tips for looking after your car this winter – Expert advice from Haynes

November 2011

The nights are drawing in, the temperature is plummeting and there is frost on the ground, so with the chances of breakdown increasing, the motoring experts at Haynes have prepared their ten top tips for looking after your car this winter.

The number of breakdowns nearly doubles during particularly cold spells, and it is only a matter of time before the UK is once again engulfed by snow, so following these carefully crafted tips could save you money and protect you and your family from potentially hazardous conditions.

Haynes top tips for preparing for winter:

  • Make sure the antifreeze concentration in the cooling system is adequate - if there has been a leak and you've been topping up with plain water it may not be. A garage can test it for you, or you can buy a tester from a car accessory shop.
  • Use a screen wash additive with antifreeze properties (not engine antifreeze). If the liquid in the washer bottle freezes it may split the reservoir or damage the pump.
  • Warm (not boiling!) water is OK for defrosting windows, but watch where it runs - it could form an ice slick when it freezes.
  • Make things easier for the battery by not switching on headlights, heater blower or heated rear window until the engine is running. Similarly, switch off lights etc before stopping the engine. Switch off the heated rear window as soon as the screen is clear.
  • Consider fitting a set of winter tyres. They really do make a difference. Some tyre retailers will store the summer tyres for you in winter, and vice versa.
  • If your car has air conditioning, run it for 10 minutes or so once a month to stop the seals drying out. And use it to demist the windscreen even if you don't need the cooling effect.
  • There’s no point in keeping lock de-icer inside the car. Frozen door locks can sometimes be freed by blowing into them - but be careful not to get your lips stuck to the car!
  • Winter grade diesel can cope with temperatures down to -15º C. If lower temperatures are expected, use an anti-waxing additive in the fuel tank (or stay at home!)
  • When parking overnight in freezing conditions, leave the car in gear and the handbrake off if it is safe to do so. This will prevent the handbrake freezing in the ‘on’ position.
  • Stop wiper blades freezing to the screen by propping them up on slices cut from a cork when you park for the night.

Matthew Minter, Editorial Director at Haynes Publishing says:

"Winter conditions put extra strain on car and driver alike, and just a few minutes spent on some simple checks now can save a lot of trouble later.

"Battery failures are the commonest single cause of winter breakdowns. If the car is increasingly hard to start and the engine slow to turn on the starter motor, especially first thing in the morning, chances are the battery is on the way out."

For more information and other great tips visit

The information on this page is supplied courtesy of Haynes Publishing, please credit accordingly if you intend to use it. For more information or to request a review copy please contact Spirit PR on 0117 944 1415 or email Haynes PR

Haynes Manuals is the world's leading publisher of illustrated workshop car and motorcycle manuals, as well as producing manuals on a wide range of DIY, leisure and lifestyle subjects. These will continue to include motoring and motorsport related subjects. Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ. Telephone: 01963 440635 Fax: 01963 440001 E-mail: