Summer has ended and the colder, wetter months are well on their way to darken our skies and dampen our spirits. The change in season means a change in approach to the way you drive, with road conditions becoming less favourable and potentially dangerous. A change in climate can also have an effect on how your vehicle performs, so car maintenance becomes important.
Creditplus have taken a look at some of the common problems and issues that can arise at this time of year and put together some top tips to help you maintain your car in the autumn.
The autumn season comes with a different set of challenges to those faced in the summer. Where in the hotter months, you have to focus on your car overheating, autumn has a greater variety of potential hazards:
Making sure your car is in good condition heading into the autumn months can save you a lot of expensive headaches going forward, and could even save your life.
You might have kept an eye on your oil and water levels in the summer, but it’s just as important in the autumn. When the temperature drops, chances are you will be using your car’s heater more than usual. This can’t work if your water levels aren’t as they should be.
Maintaining your oil levels is vital all-year round, so you shouldn’t neglect it now. A cold engine needs all the help it can get to start, so having it well-lubricated is vital. Windscreen wiper fluid is also a must, especially as you are more likely to be using your wipers in the autumn months.
You may also want to check your other fluids, such as your brake fluid levels or power steering. If you are not feeling confident to do it yourself, go to a mechanic you trust or take a look online to see if any local garages are running a promotion.
Maintaining your tyres is something you should be doing all-year round, but it’s vitally important in the wetter months. The adverse weather conditions that are common this time of year mean two things are slowed – your reactions and your braking.
When the road conditions are wet, your braking distance can vastly increase. Where the usual rule is to keep at least 4 seconds of distance between you and the car in front, this can extend by up to five times, depending on your speed and road conditions.
So it’s important that when you put your foot on the brake, your tyres react how they are supposed to. Take the time to have a look at each of your tyres (including the spare) to check the tread level. If it looks like it worn out in any area, then you may need to replace them. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm – approximately the side of a 20p coin.
In adverse weather conditions, you want to be sure that you have as much control over the car as possible. This is especially important in wet or icy conditions, where you might get caught in a spin. To have the most control over your car, you need to ensure that the alignment is correct. This is also known as the car’s tracking.
This tracking can be knocked out of sync across the year. This can happen when you hit the kerb. You can often spot if the tracking is misaligned when you drive, by positioning the steering wheel to drive straight and seeing if your car starts to drift to one side. While this can be handled during the months with better weather, you will need to sort this out before more difficult conditions start appearing on the road more regularly.
Autumn in the UK can be bitterly cold. Combine that with the regular heavy rainfall, and you will be hoping to warm up when you return to your car. The last thing you need is to get inside, start your engine, and be greeted by a chilly blast of cold air as the heater refuses to work.
So taking a look at your car’s air conditioning is a good idea, especially if you don’t have a car with climate control. Even then, you will need to ensure that it is working like it should be. Whether this is checking the radiator, or having someone look at your car’s electronics, is a good idea.
You will also need to ensure that your heater is working so that it can clear your windscreen. Sometimes you can’t see if it’s working until you need it, so checking your air con as a whole is a great piece of car maintenance.
Top tip: Summer will mean your filters could be clogged with dirt and, especially, pollen. So if you suffer from hay fever or just want a more efficient circulation, give your filters a good clean out before you are likely to use them more often in these colder months.
Shorter days mean you are more likely to be driving in the dark, so it’s important that your lights are working as they should be. Pay particular attention to your headlights, on low beam and full beam. It might be worth cleaning the transparent headlight cover, to make sure it is crystal clear and not going to dampen their impact.
Is it worth changing the bulbs in your headlights? Unlike the other lights on your car, headlights aren’t solely used to indicate to other drivers what you are doing. Having them at the right intensity is vital to ensure that, in the autumn conditions, which often includes fog, you can safely light the way.
When you think of autumn weather, then you have to be thinking of rain. So that means you’ll be seeing a lot of your windscreen wipers sweeping back and forth across in front of you, making sure you can see the road ahead. But are your windscreen wipers wiping properly?
Over time, the rubber blade on your wipers will be worn away. Not only can this prevent it from doing its job, it can also end up scratching your windshield. Worn out wiper blades are also a fail on your MOT. You can tell if the blade needs replacing by running your finger across the blade. If you feel any bumps or damage, then you know it’s time to replace them.
The good news is that windscreen wiper blades are pretty cheap. Some of the bigger stores will even fit them for you. And even if they don’t, replacing them is relatively straightforward. Just read the instructions on the pack. You’ll be able to see the difference immediately, leaving clearer roads, if not clearer skies, ahead.
Having the heating on puts extra strain on your car battery. Cold weather can also have an effect, meaning it will take longer to get started. Take your battery for a check to ensure it’s fully charged and working as it should.
Give the connections a good clean, making sure that the contact between the wires is clear. Doing so will help remove one of the problems that can cause your car trouble when starting.
You may also want to take your car to your mechanic to make sure that it’s charging properly. When you drive your car, the battery will recharge itself a little. But it can still become drained, especially with the extra strain.
Autumn weather is not as extreme as in the winter, so now is the time to make your car maintenance checks. While it’s wetter and colder, it is still generally milder than the colder months. If you check now, you can save yourself a major headache further down the road. Think of it as a sort of spring clean for your car, only in the autumn.
Of course, the best way to be ready for autumn is with a brand new car. So why not take advantage of the Creditplus Find, Fund, Deliver service? Simply complete our simple online application form, and your dedicated customer advisor will be in touch to see what exactly you want from your next car. Once you’ve made your choice, we can get your perfect car financed and deliver it direct to your doorstep, complete with an 80+ point check certified by the RAC.
So what are you waiting for? Apply today by filling out our 2-minute, no obligation online form.