Can't wait to see those faces?

snowman-driving-in-snow

There's a high probability you'll be driving home for Christmas, as Chris Rea croons. Last year, the AA reported that 14 million cars made journeys of 20 miles or more on the busiest day in the run-up to Christmas Day.

Even if you're more likely to be on a frantic last-minute shopping spree than en route to the extended family, there are more drivers on the road, and more calls for emergency roadside assistance. Follow these simple tips to reduce the chances of your car putting the brakes on your holiday period.

"For a few pounds, prevent a nightmare scenario by topping up the anti-freeze. Check your car manual for which type to use, and be sure to cool the engine before adding it."

Batteries

Batteries take a beating in winter: headlights and heaters are on for longer, and freezing temperatures are brutal on machinery too. Conserve your battery by turning off electric such as lights and wipers before starting the car. Get under the boot to check the battery for any corrosion - and make sure you know its age. A battery's lifespan is about five years, so it may be worth replacing it before it reaches its last legs.

Antifreeze

Sub-zero temperatures can crack your engine block, and savings account. For a few pounds, prevent a nightmare scenario by topping up the antifreeze. Check your car manual for which type to use, but be careful to ensure the engine's cool before adding it, or any other liquid (top up that oil, too!).

Brakes

With extra slip and slide on the roads, get a mechanic to test brake pads, discs, and pipes before winter sets in. Have your car's belts and hoses looked at and serviced for any potential problems. You don't want a cold snap to snap them.

Tyres

Do a visual examination for wear and tear, cracks, or bulges, and check tread depth. The legal limit is 1.6mm, but in winter 3mm of tread is recommended as to better disperse water. If grip is still a concern, don't reduce tyre pressure. Purchase all-season tyres, which have higher silica tread and high-density grooves for confident handling that will reduce the risk of hydroplaning.

Lights

With mud, muck and grim kicking up al over the roads, it's vital to see and be seen in winter. Make sure all lights are working, and that the lenses are wiped off, clean and visible at all times.

Windscreen

Wiper blades don't last forever. Replace yours if they are visibly worn. If they are frozen to the windscreen use a de-icer and avoid the temptation to muscle them off, or to use boiling water (which can crack the glass). Dilute the water in the screen wash reservoir with an additive such as Screen Clean to keep it from freezing. You can also put this mix in a spray bottle to use on pesky frozen car locks. A squirt of water dispersant such as WD-40 can prevent locks from freezing. To prevent doors from freezing shut, dab some Vaseline on the rubber seals.

Emergency kit

With all those miles being covered over the Christmas period, you don't want to be left out in the cold without an emergency kit in the boot should the worst happen. Recommended items include a torch, a blanket, shovel, snacks, first aid essentials, a warning triangle, and jump leads. You can buy these kits ready-made, but you can save by making your own.

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