Avoid being caught out by the seasonal change in driving conditions
Autumn isn't all about blackberries and crunchy leaves – it also brings many changes for road users, from dazzlingly blinding sunlight to the first icy windscreen of the season. Be prepared – plan ahead to avoid being caught out.
Autumn is particularly bad for dazzle from low sun. Improve vision by making sure that the windscreen is clean – inside and out. Even non-smokers find a hazy film builds up on the inside surface of the windscreen over time. Scratches, abrasions and chips on the outside can intensify the sun's dazzle too.
Blades will last for two years at the most. New blades clear the screen more effectively and so help reduce dazzle from the sun. Now is a good time to renew worn blades.
Top up and treat with a good quality, purpose-made additive to reduce the chance of freezing. Don't use ordinary engine anti-freeze but do check the handbook carefully to make sure you fill the right reservoir.
This is one of the most common causes of breakdown at any time of year, but particularly in the winter when electrical loads are higher. If there's any sign of the battery struggling now, the likelihood is that it'll let you down at some time during the winter, particularly if it's more than five years old. It makes sense to renew the battery now to avoid the hassle and inconvenience of an unplanned failure later.
Check all bulbs regularly (at least once a week) not forgetting brake lights and number plate lights. The handbook will show you how to change bulbs, though some headlight bulbs may require a visit to the garage. Carry some spare bulbs.
Check all tyres for condition, pressure and tread depth. We recommend at least 3mm of tread for winter motoring, so if the treads are getting low think about buying new tyres now before the colder weather sets in.
Not just for winter, antifreeze is important all year round as it contains additives to prevent corrosion and improve summer cooling too. It should be checked as part of the regular service schedule.
A frozen engine is very expensive to repair so if there's any doubt now is a good time to check the concentration. The handbook will give details of the correct antifreeze to use for your car — there are different types and mixing them could cause engine damage. If in doubt get a garage to check for you — many offer cheap or even free winter checks at this time of year.
(Updated August 2011)