The Manual - How to winter-proof your car

Don't get excited. It's still January and there's more rubbish weather to come. In anticipation of the next cold snap we spoke to Vanessa Guyll - technical specialist for the AA - about winter proofing cars. Invaluable.

Invest in an intelligent battery charger
These switch off when the battery is fully charged. Car batteries all used to be lead antimony, whereas now they have silver calcium inside. These are more powerful and last better, but they need plenty of long runs to charge properly. This is especially rare for London motorists, and a big problem in winter because people use heaters and screen-clearers – which are even more energy intensive in luxury cars.

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Fit winter tyres
Ordinary tyres often have fairly straight channels in the tread. These are ideal for shifting water, but aren’t very good for grip on snow-covered roads. Rear-wheel-drive cars, as most BMWs are, suffer more traction problems on snow unless there’s a lot of load in the boot - they won’t grip the road well in winter.

Check the coolant level
Modern anti-freeze lasts for around five years before it needs changing, but it is vital (all year round, in fact) as it also contains corrosion inhibitors and prevents rust and sludge build up in the cooling system. The system is sealed, so if the coolant level drops have it checked.

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Change the wiper blades
For some reason, people only ever change these when they start making a noise, but look closely at how the rubber bar sits on the screen – if they don’t make a clean sweep without any twisting movement, they’re not doing their job properly.

Remove any damp items
If you leave wet coats and stuff behind, this makes the car damp and the glass is likely to mist up on the inside. The air conditioning system removes moisture from the air, so use the hot setting to dry out the car, but don’t use it for longer than necessary as air conditioning is driven by the engine and increases fuel consumption.