How to Prepare Your Car For The Winter Weather

Winter is coming, and it’s important that your vehicle is prepared for the cooler weather. Data from AXA shows that problems like non-starting and engine cut-outs are far more likely during winter than summer (by 18% and 27% respectively), making preparation essential.

Luckily, preparing your car for winter isn’t particularly difficult. From charging up your vehicle’s battery to double-checking your tyres, making sure your car is ready for winter temperatures is often far easier than most drivers anticipate.

Ready to start? Below, we’ve listed seven steps for you to take before winter kicks into gear to keep your car safe, secure and breakdown-free this season.

Check, charge and (if required) change the battery

Battery problems are far more common during winter, with 51% more dead batteries reported by car owners during the cold months of winter than during spring, summer or autumn.

To avoid battery issues during winter, it’s important to check, charge and change. Start with a quick check of your battery using a voltmeter. If it’s producing the right amount of power, there’s nothing to worry about; if not, it’s worth replacing.

Don’t have a voltmeter at home? No problem. Most local garages can check your car battery for you in a matter of minutes and provide helpful advice on whether or not it’s worth replacing.

Top up your car’s antifreeze levels

During winter, cooler temperatures can wreak havoc on your vehicle’s coolant system, causing the liquids inside your car’s radiator to freeze, heat and expand. Over time, this can stop your car from performing as it should and even lead to long-term engine and component damage.

The key to preventing temperature-related coolant problems is antifreeze. Top up your vehicle’s coolant system with antifreeze (follow the instructions on the packaging) and you’ll prevent scale buildup while avoiding embarrassing and frustrating winter breakdowns.

Check (and refill, if required) the screen wash

Rain, ice, dirt and mud can all take their toll on your car’s windscreen during winter, making it more important than ever to keep your vehicle’s screen wash levels optimal.

Screen wash helps your car’s windscreen wipers do their job properly, making it easier to wipe away everything from mud and dirt to ice. Without screen wash, it’s easier for mud, dirt and ice to stick to your windscreen, reducing visibility and wearing away at your car’s components.

Checking and refilling your screen wash levels is a simple process. Most cars use a screenwash bottle located just under the bonnet; fill it up to the marked line to give your car the screen liquid it needs for effective cleaning during winter.

Frozen windshield? Clear it up with a little heat

Frozen water on your windshield can seem like a winter annoyance, but it’s a surprisingly easy problem to solve.

Instead of pouring hot water on your windscreen (which can damage the glass due to a sudden change in temperature) or wiping the ice off manually (which can badly scratch your windscreen and reduce visibility), just turn up the temperature in your car.

After a few minutes, the combination of a warm cabin and your car’s screen heaters will quickly melt the ice away, giving you perfect visibility without the risk of any damage to your windscreen.

Check your tyre tread, condition and pressure

Ice, dirt, gravel and mud are all common on the roads during winter, making it essential that your tyres are in good condition. From ice slips to aquaplaning, poor quality tyres increase the risk of numerous common accidents during the cool, icy months of winter.

Before the temperatures really start to drop, spend a few minutes carefully inspecting your car’s tyres. Check that they’re inflated to the correct temperature and review that the tread meets the legal minimum requirements.

Not sure how to check your tyre tread? Pop into your local garage and the staff can quickly and easily let you know if it’s time to replace your tyres. If your tyres are running flat, they’ll also be able to top them up to the right pressure level.

Keep yourself prepared with a winter repair kit

While preparation can help prevent most winter breakdowns, it can’t prevent them all. Since it’s far more common for your car to break down during winter than summer, it’s important that you have a repair kit ready in the event that your car runs into problems.

A good winter repair kit should include some jumper leads for dealing with battery issues, a jack and tyre iron for changing flat or damaged tyres, a torch, mini shovel (if you live in a snowy area) and small containers of antifreeze, screen wash and oil.

It’s also worth keeping a small first aid kit, blanket, emergency warning triangle and USB phone charger inside your vehicle. While most drivers won’t ever need them, a good set of emergency items can make all the difference in a stressful situation.

Ask the professionals to check your car

Most of the time, it’s easy to prepare your vehicle for winter on your own. However, it’s worth booking your car in for a professional winter service every other season to make sure you’re fully prepared for the cooler weather and rougher roads.

Your local garage or dealership will be happy to provide a winter service for your car, usually at a competitive price. If you use your vehicle often during winter, it’s worth the money for the extra peace of mind and confidence.

5 Tactics to Save Money on Energy This Winter

The winter is rapidly approaching, with the temperatures decreasing and sunshine hours getting shorter on a daily basis. As a result, energy consumption is on the rise as more people crank up the thermostat for a toastier, more comfortable temperature at home.

All of this comes at a cost, however — energy bills have been rising fast over the course of the year, meaning a warm and comfortable living room could end up costing you more than you’d expect.

Luckily, there are several ways you can lower your energy bills and enjoy a comfortable home without the usual cost this winter. Below, we’ve listed five techniques that you can use to lower your energy bills, all without sacrificing any comfort this holiday season.

Compare prices and consider switching providers

Think you’re spending too much on energy? You could be right. Many UK households pay more than they need to for energy not due to any mistakes or usage habits, but because they haven’t taken the time to compare prices and shop around.

If you’ve spent years (or in some cases, decades) with the same energy provider, you might be able to get a better deal by making the switch to a new supplier.

Online price comparison websites like MoneySuperMarket and Gocompare.com usually list the cheapest energy deals on the market, making it easy to compare your current provider to their competitors.

Even if you don’t end up making the switch, simply calling your energy provider to let them know you’ve found a better deal elsewhere can be enough to help you shave a small amount off your monthly energy tariff.

Lower your thermostat (just a little bit)

Turning down your home’s temperature to save money might seem like overly simply advice, but it can save you a surprising amount of money. Information from the Energy Saving Trust shows that even a tiny 1ºC decrease in temperature can lower your bills by as much as £85 per year.

That’s a significant saving, all in exchange for a not-so-significant reduction in temperature. If you feel like you’re living room is just a little too toasty this winter, try lowering the temperature by a degree or two to enjoy the same level of comfort at a lower cost.

Or, if you don’t mind a slightly lower home temperature, try decreasing the temperature by two to three degrees for a bigger saving, all while making up for the difference with an undershirt or wooly jumper.

Switch over to energy-saving light bulbs

While heating is the biggest energy consumer for most British households, “small” energy-using items like lightbulbs and appliances can add a large amount to your household’s total monthly energy consumption.

One way to save electricity and reduce your energy bills is by replacing your old lightbulbs with energy-saving bulbs. Newer bulbs that use LED and CFL technology only require a fraction as much energy as older models, all while providing equal or superior lighting.

Don’t think it’s worth making the upgrade? Although you’ll need to spend a little bit to replace your existing light bulbs, you could save as much as £60 per bulb in the long term.

Pay your energy bills in installments to avoid sudden costs

Tired of paying massive winter energy bills? By switching over to direct debit, you can avoid the excessive energy bills that seem to define winter and instead spread your energy spending over multiple smaller payments.

As well as switching to direct debit, there are several other ways you can reduce the total cost of heating your home in winter. One tactic is to ask for a meter reading — if you’ve spent more than you need to for energy, your provider should be able to provide a credit to your account.

Use credits and heating discounts to your advantage

Are you on a Universal Credit or Jobseekers’ Allowance benefit? If so, you might be entitled to a discount on your energy bills. Government-provided discounts like the Warm Heating Discount  Scheme make it easier for people on limited incomes to pay for energy during winter.

Under the scheme, you could save up to £140 on electricity in the form of a one-off energy bill discount. If your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity bill, you may also be able to receive a discount on your gas bill.

The discount is also available for people on low incomes, meaning you might not need to be on a government benefit in order to apply. There are also other schemes designed to reduce winter energy costs, such as the Winter Fuel Payment for people born on or before 5 August 1953.

How to Get the Best Pricing For Your Smartphone Contract

From mobile data to calls, texts and more, using your smartphone can be surprisingly costly.

While the monthly cost of your contract might not seem like much, over time, the costs you’ll incur from your mobile phone contract can eventually run into the hundreds or thousands of pounds, especially if you’re a power user.

Luckily, it doesn’t take much to score a better deal on your mobile phone contract, letting you save a small amount of money every month and a big amount over the long term.

Below, we’ve put together a list of simple tips, tactics and techniques that you can use to pay less for your mobile phone contract and enjoy significant savings over the long term.

 

Know what you really want in a phone

Salespeople love customers that don’t quite know what they want. Why? Because people that aren’t totally informed about what they want and need from a phone are easier to lead towards upgrades, extra features and more expensive models than informed customers.

Although smartphones can feel inexpensive, as the cost is split over several months, most are fairly expensive purchases. Just like you’d research in advance before buying a TV or a laptop, it’s worth researching in advance before you start shopping for a smartphone.

Know what you need — from operating systems to camera megapixels, screen size and other factors — before you buy and you’ll find it easier to pick the right model for you.

 

Set a budget and calculate prices before you commit

It’s easy to overspend on your smartphone, all while feeling like you got a great deal. After all, contracts usually last for 12 to 24 months, and the low monthly price of buying and using your phone can make the total cost seem less than it really is.

However, just like any installment-based purchase, the costs of buying a new smartphone can add up quickly over time.

Before you sign any long-term contract, set a clear budget for the total amount you’re willing to spend on your phone. Then, calculate the total amount you’ll spend over the course of 12 or 24 months to check that the true price of the phone fits within your budget.

 

Don’t buy too late (or too early)

Smartphone technology moves quickly, meaning that last year’s hottest phone could already be out of date by the time you decide to upgrade. This makes it important to time your smartphone purchase carefully and strategically.

If your existing contract is about to expire, it’s worth waiting until the final weeks before making the switch to a new phone. This way, you’ll avoid paying for two phones at once — a major drain on funds.

It’s also worth checking when new phones will be released. Websites like Android Authority and MacRumors are great for checking up on the latest Apple and Android phones, making it easier for you to buy the latest models as soon as they’re available.

 

Shop strategically, not emotionally

It’s easy to walk into your local smartphone store, try out the latest model and make a purchase on the spot. After all, there’s an emotional side to holding the latest smartphone in your hands — one that can be very difficult to resist.

However, it’s always worth buying strategically rather than emotionally. By all means, try out the latest models in store before you consider buying anything, but don’t say “yes” to the first phone you like without comparing your purchasing options first.

 

Be a smart negotiator

The telecommunications industry is extremely competitive, making you a valuable commodity as a loyal customer. As tempting as offers from new providers can be, you’ll often get the best deal by demonstrating your loyalty to your existing mobile phone provider.

One simple way to negotiate a better deal on your next phone is to call your current provider and let them know you’re interested in upgrading. Tell them you’ve already checked out their competitors — chances are, they’ll be willing to make a deal to keep you onboard.

As a loyal, paying customer, you could have more negotiating leverage than you expect. Put your value to use by asking for a competitive deal on your next phone and you might end up surprised by the results.