Preparing for Autumn driving

Preparing for journeys during autumn

Whether you follow the meteorological or astronomical calendar, Autumn is either here or very close. It’s a bitter-sweet time of year as summer comes to and end but the changes of nature’s colours and lighting a fire in the evenings have their own appeal.

The UK is one of the lucky countries in the world to have four changeable seasons. Each season brings with it it’s own driving conditions. It’s a good idea to consider these changes from summer’s conditions and prepare for them accordingly.

Autumn is a great time of year to carry out some checks and preventative maintenance before the driving conditions get more challenging in winter. Checking the following items will not only keep you moving, but it can also help keep you and others safe.

Tyres

As the weather becomes wetter and trees lose their leaves, the roads become more slippery. It’s important to check that your tyres are up to the job of giving you sufficient grip. Check them and ensure that the tread depth is at least 1.6mm across the middle three quarters of the tyre, which is the legal limit. This time of year though we would recommend replacing tyres when they get to 3mm of tread depth. Also have a look around to ensure there are no cracks, cuts or bulges.

Check the pressures too. The recommended pressures can be found in your car’s handbook, and sometimes on the inside of the driver or passenger door. Many cars also display them on the fuel filler flap.

Batteries

Colder weather puts more strain on your car’s battery. Batteries typically last anywhere form three to 10 years. If yours is starting to show signs that its struggling in the autumn then it’s a good opportunity to replace it before it needs to work even harder in the winter. How do you know if you battery is struggling? Your engine won’t turn over as quickly when starting, or it becomes flat after driving a few short trips.

Antifreeze

Check that the water in your car’s coolant system has enough antifreeze to see it through the colder months. This is normally checked during a routine service. If not, then you can check yourself with an inexpensive tool. Alternatively there are many motor factors will check this for you as part of their winter checks. Halfords offer a 5-point winter check for free.

Lights

During the summer we can go weeks without using our car’s headlights as it gets dark so late. But as the nights draw in for autumn we’ll be relying on them more an more. Be sure to check all your bulbs before you drive during the night. Remember also that the mornings will gradually become darker, and adverse weather such as fog will mean that you need to switch lights on during the day sometimes.

Visibility

Despite being colder, the sun can be brighter than ever during the autumn. This is because it appears lower in the sky. So don’t put those sunglasses in the glove box just yet. It’s also worth cleaning your windows on both the inside and outside as this will reduce the amount of glare from the sun and other road users. Turning your headlights on in lower light conditions will help other road users see you.

As mentioned earlier, fog can be expected in the autumn. All cars in the UK legally have to have a working rear fog light. Many cars have front fog lights too. In such conditions you should use your dipped headlights, switching to fog lights when visibility is less than 100m.

Watch out for ice

During the latter half of autumn temperatures can drop dramatically during the night. This makes for icy roads in the early mornings as well as frozen windscreens. If your car has a heated windscreen option then now is a good time to check it works. For the rest of us it’s time to get the ice scraper and/or de-icer out and put it somewhere handy.

Avoid using boiled water from the kettle as this can crack your windscreen. It’s also wise to make sure you leave your car attended when the engine is running. If your car is stolen when the keys are in the ignition then your insurance company will be unlikely to validate your claim. Always make sure your windscreen is fully clear before driving away. Even the smallest amount of ice or condensation can make a pedestrian that much more difficult to see.

Be wary of ice on the roads – especially in the early mornings. Check the weather forecast or your car’s outside temperature display if it has one. Shaded areas may stay icy for longer than those that get exposed to the sun.

Autumn is a great time of the year in the UK, and by taking a few minutes to perform some basic checks you can make sure you enjoy the roads and keep yourself and others safe.

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When should I use my fog lights?

Dipped beam headlights should be used when it's foggy and there is less visibility than usual. If you can't see 100m in front of you then it's time to put on your fog lights.

How can I tell if my car battery needs replacing?

If your car takes longer to start when the weather gets colder, then it could be time to change the battery.

How we reviewed this article:

Our experts continually monitor motor industry news & research, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

  • 17th November 2023
    Current Article - By Gary McKrill
  • 22nd April 2024
    Checked & Reviewed - By Sjoerd Bakker
  • 7th November 2023
    Copy Edited - By Gary McKrill
  • 29th April 2024
    Reviewed - By Gary McKrill

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