SOME tips on avoiding the breakdown blues this winter have been made by road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist.
The group says that this is the time of the year to pay attention to the condition of your car's battery, the amount of anti-freeze in the cooling system and to check your wipers and lights.
GEM road safety officer Neil Worth said: "Last week's cold weather managed to catch some drivers by surprise, judging by the rise in calls to our breakdown control centre for help with flat batteries.
"The last thing anyone needs is to break down on a chilly morning. Prevention is always better than cure, so by paying some attention to a few winter maintenance needs, you will greatly reduce the risk of a breakdown in the coming months."
The organisation has now issued the following five bits of advice to make sure your car performs in the winter months:
1. Get the battery and charging system checked to ensure best performance. A number of winter calls to GEM's breakdown control centre relate to flat batteries. Cold weather puts a lot of strain on tired batteries, so consider changing it now to avoid the inconvenience of a breakdown. If your battery seems to be turning over more slowly than usual, get it checked straight away. Similarly, if the red battery warning symbol illuminates on the dashboard, do get the battery checked.
2. Ensure your car's cooling system has the correct levels of anti-freeze, which is vital to prevent the water in your engine's cooling system from freezing. GEM recommends you consult your local dealer or a qualified mechanic to ensure this is done correctly.
3. Make sure all the lights on your car, inside and out, are working properly. Clean them regularly to ensure they are free of dirt, so that you can see, and others can see you.
4. Check tyres for tread depth and pressure weekly through the winter. Good tyres will ensure the safety systems on your car are as effective as possible. GEM recommends a minimum tread depth of 3mm (the legal minimum is 1.6mm), as this will disperse much more water from the road and will minimise your risk of skidding and losing control.
5. Check your windscreen wipers, front and rear. Make sure they are working properly, and top up your screenwash regularly using cold weather washer fluid. Do not use the windscreen wipers to clear ice, as this will very quickly lead to damage.