Prepare your car for winter

We’re well into Winter and it’s helpful to be reminded of those simple tasks we can do to keep our cars in tip top condition and prevent breakdowns in bad weather.

  • Winter roadTyres – Check your tyres; The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm, but make sure there’s more than enough grip for torrential and even snowy weather. Ideally a set of Winter tyres is preferable. These outperform so called normal summer tyres at temperatures below 7 degrees, clearing water and snow effectively. A spare set of cheap wheels with Winter tyres fitted could be cost effective and last for years, meaning you can run your summer set when the weather warms and get all the performance and feedback of summer tyres without the poor grip in Winter.
  • Aircon – Run the aircon once a week, even in Winter to keep the system seals lubricated. This means you won’t be replacing the aircon system, come summer time.
  • Visibility – Do yourself and everyone a favour – clear the whole windscreen of ice before setting off in a morning when setting off. It means getting up 5 minutes earlier, but it could also be the difference between knocking someone off their bike or being pulled over by the Police and not. Change your wiper blades every 12 months – check them regularly for wear and tear.
  • Lights – Make sure all your lights are clean and fully functioning. Don’t forget to check your rear lights, brake lights and indicators.
  • Screenwash – Check the levels and use screen wash with suitable additive – this will reduce the chances of your washer fluid freezing and help clear grime, dirt and ice.
  • Coolant – Check your antifreeze levels to avoid your engine freezing and cracking. Also make sure you use the right antifreeze, usually indicated in your vehicle handbook.
  • Electrics – With French electrics temperamental at the best of times its a good idea to check your battery. If it’s over 5 years old, it may not be holding a charge as well and may need replacing. A voltmeter should show 12V with the engine off and around 14V when running.
  • Breakdown cover – taking it out now can be a lot cheaper than calling from the side of the road to sign up.
  • Snow socks – these inventions are relatively cheap and make all the difference when trying to ascend or descend a hill. It can be handy to have a set stored in the boot should there be heavy snowfall.

Winter car pack checklist

Carrying some or all of these items below will help, should you get in trouble during heavy snowfall or bad weather this year:

  • Deicer
  • Small pieces of carpet to put under wheels if stuck
  • Snow shovel
  • Snow socks
  • Emergency blanket
  • Warm coat and gloves
  • First aid kit
  • Spare bulbs
  • Tow kit
  • Pen paper, camera, tape recorder useful in the event of an accident
  • Petrol can useful if you get stuck in a traffic jam
  • Cigarette lighter phone charger or spare battery
  • Breakdown cover details

Transmission fluid leak

Driveshaft sealI noticed a small patch of gearbox oil on the drive the other day. You’ll know if it gearbox oil by the horrendous smell!  It looks like the offside driveshaft seal is leaking. This is a circular seal that sits in the end of gearbox differential casing. The driveshaft goes through this seal. It’s possible I disturbed the seal when refitting the gearbox and driveshafts after changing the clutch. I despise dealing with transmission oil at the best of times, so I’m going to book it into the garage to sort this one out easily on the ramps.

For those of the DIY persuasion I’ve described the process of fixing it yourself .

ABS sensor failure

ABS lightSince the ABS light was on the dash (an MOT failure) I set about trying to solve the issue. First up was the issue of trying to figure out which sensor was at fault. Usually a garage will use the diagnostic machine to find out which sensor is providing faulty or no reading. Obviously I don’t have the diagnostic machine on hand, but there is another (cheaper) way…
I signed up on to become a full forum member for £5. This allows you to view the diy guides, one of which is diagnosing an ABS sensor failure. For full members the article is here. Using the guide I determined that the N/S/R sensor was at fault.

I logged onto the Eurocarparts website and ordered the correct ABS sensor for the car. Lo and behold it arrived, and turned out to be the wrong ABS sensor. So I sent it back and browsed ebay for the correct sensor. Having ordered the sensor, a nice Glaswegian guy called to check my registration and make sure it was the correct one. The sensor arrived and was thankfully the right one.

To change the sensor first get under the rear of the car and trace the ABS sensor back under the rear beam to the blue plastic plug. Remove this and work your way back to the hub, removing the
cable clips as you go. To get the old ABS sensor out requires patience and brute force!
Remove the rear disc protector by removing the 3 torx screws in the back of the hub. Next its helpful if you remove the brake pad carrier and brake disc. This allows you full access to the ABS Sensor. A set of Mole grips are very useful for grabbing the sensor and removing it. If it’s never been changed, you’ll need patience as it will almost certainly be near-seized in the hub. You will destroy the sensor on removing it, I managed to pull the electronics out of it metal casing! To removed the casing from the hub I had to hammer it with a screwdriver until finally, it came out. Clean the hole in the hub and gently work the ABS sensor in until it is in place. Once the ABS sensor is connected up, it will take time for the ABS ECU to recognise the sensor is now working and turn off the ABS sensor light on the dash, so take the car for a run for a few miles and job done.