It’s the coldest time of the year. Long nights, freezing cold mornings. The sun just a memory we use to keep ourselves going. And at this time of year, it’s our cars who can suffer the worst. Who hasn’t left the house to go to work in the morning, only to find their car has turned into an ice cube? So we find a way in and turn on the engine, hoping to get the car some warmth in its bones so you can start using it.
But that has to change. Now you can be fined for leaving your car idling and no longer can you set off and wait for it to warm up.
If you thought fuel was the only cost of leaving your car idling, you’d be wrong. In a bid to try and tackle the growing emissions problem, the UK government introduced a penalty for leaving your car idling. While it has always been against the highway code to have your car idling for no reason, the penalties are starting to be enforced more regularly.
While it’s just £20 at the moment (£40 if you don’t pay within a certain time), these fines are likely to increase. So getting out of the habit now will save you a potentially costly headache in the future.
Temperatures overnight can drop below freezing. So if your car is outside and exposed to the elements, it can get really cold. That can make the liquids in your engine freeze solid. Primarily the water in your radiator, and the fuel in the fuel lines. Coldness can also have an effect on your car battery, as it becomes less effective thanks to the drop in temperatures. In fact, this is the most common cause of your car failing to start in the winter months.
But what can you do to help prevent your car from icing over? Here’s our guide to de-icing your car without getting a fine.
Investing in a set of jump leads could be the best present you get yourself this winter. While you still need to rely on another car that hasn’t frozen to come to your aid (unless you buy a set of cables with a built in power pack), having a set of leads you can use to connect to another car that hasn’t succumbed to the cold can help get you up and running again.
If you find yourself regularly having start up issues, whether it’s cold or not, now might be a good time to go and have your battery checked by a professional. Many garages will be able to do this for you, some might even do it for free. Whatever happens, if you think your battery is on the way out, take a look online for the best price for a replacement.
Another option is to give your battery a charge, especially in the colder months. You’ll need a standalone battery charger, or some cables and a mains adapter. But if you are driving a lot in the cold months, having a fully charged battery can you save you time you might have spent waiting around.
When you turn the key in the ignition, the battery should only be concerned with one thing – starting the motor. But, if you have the air con running, lights on, windscreen wipes or in-car entertainment set to ‘on’, then the battery will have to try and activate them as well. By turning off everything before you leave your car, you can take this unnecessary strain off the battery.
If the water in your radiator is freezing, it’s a sign that you’ve probably diluted the anti-freeze levels in the car too much. This is easy to do when you top up the water levels during the warmer summer months. Have a look at your local hardware store or supermarket and invest in some anti-freeze. Then simply add it to the water levels in your radiator and you’ll be able to keep your car’s water from freezing solid.
Another reason you might have left your car idling is to try and warm the interior enough so that it dislodges the ice on the windows to your vehicle. But it can take an age for your engine to get warm enough for you to turn on your heater to try warm up the ice blocking your view.
Buy yourself some de-icing spray and a proper scraper. Having this to hand will mean you can quickly clear your windows and mirrors, so you can be out on the road without waiting around in the cold. You may want to keep a can of spray inside your house, as if your car is frozen solid, it might be difficult to get inside your vehicle to grab the spray.
If the fuel line is getting frozen, it’s probably a sign that water has crept into the tubing. To fix this, you will need to get a mechanic to flush the pipes. Speak to your local engineer and ask them if they provide this service.
You may find that you can’t even use your key to open the door of your car because its frozen solid. To get around this try heating up your key. You could hold it in your hands or place it on a radiator inside your house.