Top car tips in the extreme cold - DIY fixes to try

In addition to common winter breakdowns such as batteries failing, our members report a variety of different problems when the temperature really plummets. Here are some of the things to keep an eye out for, together with some fixes you can try at home yourself.

Frozen screenwash

Screenwash helps keep your windscreen clear – but when the mercury falls it’s vital you use a quality screenwash that is effective down to -20C. Top up your filler bottle with neat solution – don’t try and dilute it, and steer clear of ready mixed screenwash that won’t give you the protection you need.

If the screenwash bottle is already frozen, you can try adding hot (but not boiling) water directly into it to thaw the solution.

If the washer jets have frozen, you’ll just need to wait for the engine to warm enough to thaw them again. So always make sure you can clear your windscreen with other means before you set off. Remember the golden rule: never use hot water to de-ice a windscreen!

Frozen wiper blades

Wiper blades work particularly hard in the winter, especially as a result of gritted roads. Before you start your car, check the wiper blades aren’t stuck to the windscreen. If they are and you try to use them, you risk breaking the mechanism and even blowing a fuse – an easily avoidable problem.

DIY tip: if there’s a risk of the wipers freezing, put a piece of cardboard between the blades and the windscreen overnight.

Frozen handbrakes

There’s a DIY fix you can try here. Remove the caps from your car’s rear wheels (if they’re plastic and you can) and pour hot (not boiling) water from a watering can over the centre of the hub. Repeat this as necessary to release the handbrake. But take care – water you use will likely freeze to the ground so be careful not to slip.

Frozen windows

Can’t operate the windows? Once the engine has warmed up and while still parked, direct the air vents towards the windows and select the hottest temperature to get them opening and closing again.