Driving in the dark requires more concentration from the driver, so it makes sense to have a car that's in tip-top condition – especially when the clocks go back.
If most of your time behind the wheel is spent driving to and from work in the dark, these car preparation tips will help you and your passengers to stay safe.
1 Are all of your car’s light bulbs working?
It seems obvious, but It’s easy to notice lights out on other vehicles, while remaining oblivious to a blown tail light or dipped beam bulb on your car.
Just spending a minute once a week to check if the lights actually work could make it easier to see the road, avoid a crash, or being stopped by the police.
AutoFix can help with general DIY guidance on bulb types and renewal.
2 Get that grime off!
The bulbs might be working, but if the light lenses are dirty the amount of light actually emitted is bound to be reduced. I sometimes wonder if there is something wrong with my eyesight when driving in the dark, only to discover the headlights are dirty. A quick clean and miraculously the verge is now visible!
3 Check for lens ‘fogging’
With the widespread use of plastic for headlight lenses, ‘fogging’ or ‘yellowing’ of the lens is a common issue. Age and exposure to UV rays causes the deterioration of the plastic, but cheap and easy restoration kits are readily available – or you could try this tip from Car Hacks.
The kits normally work by carefully removing the ‘fogged/yellowed’ outer layer of the lens, and then applying a thin coat of ‘preservative’ to slow down future deterioration. The complete job might take an hour or so, but could save the expense of headlight renewal.
Don’t forget, in the UK, poor headlight performance or aim could be an MoT test failure.
4 Change your wiper blades
It is pretty obvious that the wipers should clean the windscreen efficiently, but it’s not easy to notice the gradual deterioration of their performance. The rubber blades harden over time and accumulate dirt, dust and debris from sweeping the screen.
Even if the rubber appears intact, the chances are that they’ve accumulated a greasy layer, and only really clear the water from the screen properly once they’ve been operating for a few minutes.
We recommend that wiper blades are changed every year, regardless of their apparent condition.
5 Are your tyre pressures correct?
While your tyres’ condition and pressures are important all year round, and sorting out a roadside puncture on a summer evening would be an irritation, doing the same thing on a cold, dark, wet road becomes a major event.
Spending a couple of minutes checking the tyres could be time well spent. Spotting tyre damage or pressure loss early can help prevent that nightmare by the roadside.
AutoFix can help, showing you what to look for and the correct pressures.
6 Top up the washer bottle
With dark winter nights comes dirty roads. Mud on the road might be an issue in the countryside, but spray from other traffic is a major problem on all roads.
Water brings all sorts of contaminants to the surface – dirt, grease, oil and salt – and if the windscreen washers don’t work, or aren’t aimed correctly, the wipers may not clear the windscreen quickly if at all.
So a weekly check of the fluid level in the washer reservoir (make sure to fill it with a suitable concentration of screenwash) is recommended, along with a check of the jets. Traditionally, it’s been possible to adjust the aim of the jets with a pin or needle, but on many modern cars, the aim is not adjustable, and inserting a pin into the jet opening can cause damage. If in doubt, replacement jets are usually inexpensive and may be the only solution.
If the jets are blocked, it may be worth disconnecting the fluid supply pipe from the jet and trying to clear them with compressed air from a foot pump or similar, but often renewal is the only answer.
7 How’s the view through the windscreen?
Not only could a damaged windscreen cause an MoT test failure, cracks and chips can distort other vehicles’ lights, especially in the rain. AutoFix explains the MoT rules for windscreen damage.
Often a damaged windscreen can be repaired if the damage is caught in time, or if renewal is the only option they’re normally covered by the vehicle insurance policy.
8 Get your car serviced on time
A breakdown during a summer's day is a major inconvenience, but in the dark, on a lonely wet road, it can become a nightmare.
Keeping the vehicle serviced in accordance with the recommended schedule can help minimise the chances of a breakdown. AutoFix has a service schedule for most vehicles, along with essential servicing specifications and general DIY servicing advice.