According to the AA of UK, breakdowns are most common during the winter months. The AA calls in extra patrols during the winter as more than 1,000 breakdowns occur in an hour. A few years back, the AA responded to more than 28,000 vehicle breakdowns in one day! Now that is quite a huge number in terms of cars and vans piling up on the motorway shoulder.
The winter season requires the most preparation and care pertaining to your vehicle if you wish to stay safe and avoid van breakdown. Road conditions are quite challenging during the cold winter months more so if there is snow and frost. Delays and accidents caused by other vehicles are to be expected so your best option is to keep your vehicle in tiptop shape and to make sure you are well-equipped to deal with possible emergency situations.
Check the Batteries
The vehicle battery powers the lights, wipers and heaters, seldom lasting longer than five years. If your van battery is near the end of its life, it is best to change it for a new one more so if you mostly drive during rush hour. Try to avoid running electrical systems longer than necessary: switch off the heated window off once condensation is gone and turn down the heater fan if possible. Switch off lights, wipers and rear screen heater when turning on the engine. If your van stays idle on weekends, do an overnight charge on the battery. If the engine does not start quickly, turn on the ignition and start the engine in five-seconds burst, allowing at least 30 seconds in between attempts.
Check the Windscreen as snow or ice on the windscreen is a regular occurrence during the cold winter months. Make sure you wash the windscreen regularly with washer fluid and treat with a suitable additive to ensure maximum visibility in the winter. You should stock up on de-icer and keep a scrapper just in case. Make sure that loose snow is removed from the van before driving off. The windscreen wipers must be in good condition and should be changed in case the blades are no longer effective. Never use the wipers to disperse snow or frost from the windscreen.
Lights and lenses must be kept clean at all times. You might have to clean them after use. Clear snow from the front and back lights. Make sure that all lights including fog lights are in good working condition. Use the fog lights only when necessary as they can dazzle other drivers and block-out brake lights. The number plates need to be free of dirt and snow too.
If you start the van and hear a continuous squeaking noise, then it is more likely that the fan belt is not off the pulley because the water pump is frozen solid! There is also the possibility that the cylinder block is frozen too. When this happens, stop the engine and let it thaw which could take several days unless you can move the vehicle into a heated garage.
If after driving a few miles you notice that the van begins to overhear, then the radiator is likely frozen, preventing the coolant from properly circulating. Stop the van and thaw the radiator before you cause serious damage.
Use anti-freeze to avoid freezing the radiator as this could lead to a cracked engine block. Most new vehicles use long-life anti-freeze but it is still recommended that you check the van’s handbook or ask the dealer as to the type of anti-freeze to use. For the winter, a 50:50 mix of water and anti-freeze in the cooling system is required to tolerate temperature down to -34° Celsius.
Check the brake fluid and engine oil.
It is best to change to winter tyres as they have higher silica content in the tread for better grip on the road, and to prevent the hardening of tyres in freezing temperature. The standard government tyre tread regulation is 1.6mm. However, AA recommends no less than 2mm tread with 3mm tread as the ideal for winter motoring.
Make sure you follow the recommended tyre pressure of your vehicle. Do not reduce the tyre pressure for more grip on the road as this is not true and will only reduce stability.
There is no need to use snow chains unless you live in a remote area covered with heavy snow and where the roads are not cleared.
Aside from making sure that you do van maintenance is well-maintained and in excellent condition, the key to driving safely in snow and ice is gentle manoeuvres. Note that it takes 10 times longer to stop in snow and ice so don’t rush on a wet and icy motorway.
Want more advice on how to care for you van or looking to buy a new van this winter? Give us a call at 01656 837374.