An average driver won’t even think of preparing their car for autumn. While it hardly sounds surprising, autumn can, in fact, be much more difficult for your car than winter. It is normal for winter to be very cold; this makes the drivers more wary and the streets tend to be maintained better than in autumn since snow and frost are expected. Many drivers also resign from driving in winter and just leave their cars parked in front of their houses, either because the weather is terrible or because they have no choice; the car just won’t start.
As a result, if a winter morning is frosty, the streets may be less busy than usual. In autumn, however, the majority of cars do start; it also rains, which means that your car suddenly seems more comfortable than usual. When it rains, people are unlikely to take public transport instead of driving. The streets are then bound to be as busy as they can; at the same time, the weather is difficult and it gets dark early. It is the combination of these factors that makes roadside conditions so hard for the driver in autumn. Knowing this, you can prepare yourself for autumn; weather will get really difficult at least a few times before winter comes so why make the situation worse by driving a car which is in a bad condition?
Prepare your car for autumn on your own
Windshield and wipers
In autumn it is very important to keep your car, and especially its windshield, clean. Not only will the car driving before yours spray a mix of water and mud on the front of your car but whenever you park, you may find the car covered in fallen leaves when you come back. Get used to cleaning windows on a regular basis; this will increase visibility and make wiper blades last longer. If wipers are wiping a clean surface, they will remove water much more precisely but they will also take longer to break. If you notice that the windows remain dirty even after using the wipers, make sure you check if the blades are clean and undamaged. Remember: damaged wiper blades must be replaced as soon as possible.
Autumn means lots of rain and slippery roads. This makes braking distance longer. Your tyres should be in good condition if you want to drive safely. The minimum tread depth in summer tyres is 3 mm but winter tyres must have at least 4,5 mm of it. If your tyres have already reached the minimum, they need to be replaced. They also need replacement if they’re too old. In general, it is not safe to use winter tyres that are older than 5 to 6 years; summer tyres will last you up to 10 years. You can find the manufacturing date at the side of each tyre; it consists of 6 digits (2 for week number, 4 for the year). For example, 152015 means the tyre was manufactured in the 15th week of year 2015.
Tyres need to be replaced as soon as the weather starts changing. In October, during the day, the temperature is 10 degrees Celsius on average; it already is a good time to start thinking of changing the tyres. When the temperature drops to ca. 7 degrees Celsius and stays like this, the tyres will surely need to be changed. Remember: this needs to be booked in advance so don’t plan changing the tyres last minute!
Seals are most prone to damage in late autumn. During the day, when it’s warmer, they will get moisty; at night, when the temperature drops below zero, the water freezes. This is when seals get damaged; if you can’t open the door in winter, you will remember when it all started: in autumn. If you want to keep the seals ready to face next winter, clean them with a piece of cloth and cover them with a layer of silicone sealant.
Of all the elements you may consider preparing for autumn, lights are perhaps the easiest one to overlook; this is surprising, taking how important they are for safe driving. It is always a good idea to check the lights on a regular basis; at least once a month you should ask one of the passengers to help you check if the lights are working fine. It would be best to do this once a week. Remember: a bulb doesn’t have to be dead to need replacement; if the light is weaker than it should be, something is not right; the bulb will most likely refuse to cooperate soon. Why not replace it before it suddenly does?
Test of the electrical elements
The season of increased electricity consumption in your car starts in autumn. You will need to heat the interior and use the wipers soon; it won’t take long until you will need to also heat the mirrors and the rear windshield. Before autumn begins, it would be best to simply check if all the electrical components are working fine. Take a quarter or so to turn on the heating of the interior, the aircon heating, car heating, interior lights, and check if windows and mirrors are moving properly. Remember to only do this with the engine running or you will consume all the electricity in the battery!
Prepare your car for autumn at a station
If you check the battery in autumn and discover it needs repairing or replacing, you will still have enough time for repairs or choosing a new one. If the car just doesn’t start on a winter morning, your decisions will be influenced by strong emotions and lack of time.
How can you tell something is wrong with the battery, though? A fully loaded car battery should be showing 12,6 V. When the voltage drops to 12,4 V, the battery is flat. You should also check the drain; it shouldn’t be higher than 50 mA (0.05 A). Drain is the current consumed by different accessories such as the car computer, radio or alarm when the engine is not running.
Before you visit the station, you can check if the battery is properly fixed and if the clamps are clean.
Blow air through the air vents
Air vents should be cleaned (just blow some air through them and spray them with a disinfectant). This will help remove dust which, combined with autumn moist, would increase the vaporization in the car. Remember to also check the cabin filter. Clean it or, if need be, replace it.
Check the coolant
The coolant liquid may, in fact, be even easier to overlook than lights when you’re preparing your car for autumn. Especially in late autumn temperatures may be very low so it is a good idea to check if the coolant has maintained its properties. Engine damage caused by your failing to make sure the coolant is doing what it’s designed for may cost you a lot!
Checking the brakes is an absolute must when you’re preparing the car for autumn. Dark mornings and afternoons, slippery roads and drizzle often force drivers to suddenly use their brakes. Make sure your brakes are working fine in case you need to use them to prevent an accident.
When planning to prepare the car for autumn, remember one thing: it is the human factor that has the greatest influence on driving safety. It is your duty to check the elements we have listed to make sure your passengers, other drivers and yourself are safe on the road. Remember to also make sure you’re not driving too fast and carelessly; adjust the speed to the conditions on the road.