With the clocks going back at the end of this month, many of us will be looking forward to the extra hour in bed. 

However when the clocks change, motorists must be more careful than ever on the road. The darker evenings will reduce visibility significantly for drivers and this time of year brings wet and even icy weather conditions; these factors combined can result in more breakdowns or accidents if you are not prepared.

To help provide drivers with all of the right tools as we edge closer to October 29th, we have pulled together a list of 9 essential car parts & accessories that we highly recommend you carry out a maintenance check on before it gets darker, wetter and even colder.

1. Check your car’s lights

As we all know too well, heading into the winter means that we often leave for work in the dark and commute home in the dark too, so it’s crucial that all of your bulbs are working properly on your car.

This includes everything from brake lights and tail lights to headlights and indicators. It’s important to clean your lights regularly at this time of year and check they’re working by walking around the outside of your car, then asking another person to take a look at the brake lights for you. If this isn’t an option, make use of reflections instead, whether that’s in windows or against your garage door.

Why might a car’s lights stop working?

There are a number of reasons as to why your lights might stop working. For instance, the fuse might have blown, which is usually an easy fix, the wiring in your car could be faulty or a new relay may be required. 

Is it illegal for car lights to be broken?

If you find that a bulb needs changing, get it fixed as soon as possible to avoid being stopped by the police as driving without proper working headlights is illegal. Although you may feel that one headlight is enough to see on the road, you are at risk of driving with no visibility – which is a huge danger for other drivers too – if the other light goes out whilst you are in motion.

In fact, if you are caught driving with one headlight you could be pulled over by the police and they may hand you a fixed penalty notice fine of £100. 

Fading and foggy lights

It’s important to note that headlights tend to fade over time too, especially on older used cars and this can leave them at a dangerously dim level without you even realising. 

Faded – or foggy – headlights could be due to anything from water vapour to a build up of pollution which is even more likely to occur in the winter months. The good news is that they can be restored again quite easily using a headlight restoration kit. These kits typically include different sandpaper options, tools with abrasive discs or a wool pad for you to attach to a power drill. Some kits even include a cleaning solution or a separate coating solution too.

If you’re not confident you’ll be able to tackle this yourself, take your car to a professional at your local garage who will do the job for you.

2. Clean your number plate

The clocks changing coincides with the weather turning and the roads becoming increasingly wet and muddy. As a result, it’s more important than ever to keep the outside of your car clean with a regular wash – paying close attention to your number plate in particular. 

Number plates are important as they let the authorities identify vehicles and owners involved in accidents or crime.

Drivers with dirty licence plates or ones that are difficult to read may get an on-the-spot fine of £100 or even be charged up to £1,000, so it’s well worth taking the time to make sure it’s visible before setting off on your next journey.

3. Check your car’s coolant level

Coolant – or antifreeze – is a liquid that’s added to the water in an engine’s cooling system to help lower the freezing point. This means that the water won’t freeze under typical cold weather conditions. 

When the temperatures drop, the last thing you need is a frozen engine. Although it’s a sealed system and shouldn’t need to be topped up, you should always double check to be safe in case of leaks, especially ahead of a long journey.

Check your coolant levels when the engine is cold and look in your car handbook for the correct coolant and mix to use should you need to top it up.

4. Inspect your wiper blades

Your windscreen wipers are one of the most delicate parts of your vehicle. Over time they will need replacing but can easily become damaged if they are used on a windscreen that is iced over. 

If you spot any splits in the rubber edge of the blade, or hear any squeaking when they’re turned on, there’s a good chance your wipers won’t be clearing the water properly if it rains. As a result, any leftover streaks have the potential to impair your visibility on the road.

It’s important that the working wiper adequately clears the windscreen so that you can clearly see the road ahead of you. Otherwise, if pulled over by the police and found to have a faulty wiper, you risk being handed a vehicle defect rectification form which must be returned and completed within a specified time – usually 14 days – to avoid prosecution.

5. Check the level of screenwash

Wet weather means muddier roads and more spray from other moving vehicles, resulting in extra grime landing on your windscreen. With the extra hour of morning light, it will be almost impossible to see the road ahead if the sun is beaming down on your car and you don’t have any washer fluid to clean the glass.

While screenwash is mostly used to clear grime on your windscreen, it typically contains ethanol or methanol which will prevent the fluid from freezing in sub-zero temperatures – and explains why you should try to avoid using only water for top ups. 

For this reason, it’s important not to use heavily diluted screenwash for when the cold weather hits, otherwise it may freeze and you might find yourself unable to clear your windscreen while driving.

Check your screenwash level in the tank under the bonnet and top up if necessary with a quality screen wash pre-mix for ease, which you can pick up in most petrol stations and supermarkets.


6. Look after your car’s battery – and carry jump leads

Fundamental to avoiding or limiting the impact of issues with your car during the autumn and winter months is preparation. This is particularly important when it comes to your car’s battery. 

A battery is more likely to struggle over the winter, and leaving anything like the radio or heater on if you’ve pulled over – even if it’s brief – can drain the battery and leave you stuck with a car that won’t start.

If you haven’t changed your car battery for a while or own an older car, you’re even more at risk as the cold and damp weather can put a significant strain on it. If your battery seems to be struggling when you start your car, it could be on its way out and a clear sign that you should replace it before the temperature plummets.

If you’re not a day-to-day driver, we’d highly recommend completing a short 15-20 minute journey once every two weeks when it’s colder outside. This will make you less likely to have a dead battery, spot deflated tyres or any other issues.

It’s important to make sure you have jump leads or a portable battery pack stored in your vehicle so you are prepared in the unfortunate event that your battery does go flat.


7. Check your tyres

These four pieces of rubber are crucial to your safety on the road. Always remember that your tyres should ideally have at least 3mm of tread for winter motoring and make sure to check the pressure at least once every fortnight, if not more frequently during cold weather snaps.

Your tyres are actually more likely to deflate in wintry conditions because cold air is more dense than warm air so when the temperature drops, your tyre pressure will drop with it. Therefore, keeping your tyres pumped up should be a key priority over the coming months. 

If you were pulled over by the police and happened to have four under inflated tyres, that would mean three points per tyre and therefore a disqualification from driving. There is also a fine of up to £2,500 per tyre, which would set you back as much as £10,000. You can also be penalised if you’re caught with a tyre tread depth lower than 1.6mm – having a tread depth below this level is not only illegal, it’s dangerous, especially so in wintery conditions.

8. Ensure windows are clean and clear

As well as being unsafe, dirty windows will limit your view of the road and could see you fined for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition. 

The inside of your windscreen is one of the most neglected areas of your car when it comes to routine maintenance. If you can put your finger on the inside of your windscreen and it leaves a mark then that’s a telltale sign that it needs a clean. 

Failing to do so will leave you struggling to see when it’s dark and other headlights are coming at you from the opposite side of the road. A quick spray with a glass cleaner solution and wipe using a paper towel will get rid of any condensation build-up.


9. Test – and use – the air conditioning

A common mistake most drivers make is thinking that the air-conditioning in a vehicle is only a necessity in the summer months to help make your journey more comfortable on hot days. 

However, aircon is an important part of the windscreen demisting process as it helps to draw moisture out of the air inside your car. As it gets colder, your windows are more likely to fog up so it’s important to make sure that your system is functioning properly. 

It might sound obvious, but the best way to test the airflow in your vehicle is by running the aircon at its max setting. The type of air that blows out will tell you about the nature of the problem. For instance, if the air smells and feels warm, then you may need to swap out the cabin air filter. However, if there’s a leak then you will need to take your car to a professional to get the problem sorted. 

Prepare your car for winter

The maintenance tips we’ve listed in this article gives car owners a good indication of what to look out for before the clocks change and the driving conditions become more of a challenge. 

With the darker evenings, icy temperatures, wet weather and early morning sunlight, it’s vital for drivers to be aware of any checks – no matter how small – that could prevent them from breaking down, being fined or involved in an accident. 

In the unfortunate event that you are left stranded over the coming months, it’s well worth having a winter car kit stored in your boot, including items like a warm jacket, high-visibility clothing, snacks, a de-icer and scraper so you are prepared for any eventuality.