While it’s important that you keep your wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) in good condition all year round, it’s even more crucial during the cold winter months. Driving in cold weather can be challenging for all motorists, but when you combine poor weather, a drop in temperature, and reduced visibility, breakdowns become more likely.

When preparing for the changing seasons, there are some simple steps you can implement to give your WAV the care and maintenance it needs to safely see you through winter. We’ve put together some essential tips to help you prepare your Motability vehicle before the worst of the winter weather takes hold.

Check your lights and battery

The winter months mean darker days, so you must regularly check your lights to ensure you can see and be seen on the road. Check that all your lights are working and each one is free from dirt and snow.

A flat battery is one of the most common causes of vehicle breakdown during the colder months. The cold weather can adversely affect the battery’s chemical process, slowing it down and reducing its capacity to hold a charge, causing your WAV’s engine not to start. To ensure you have no trouble starting your WAV over winter, check your battery regularly, especially if it’s over three years old. A battery that doesn’t hold a charge for as long as it used to is a tell-tale sign that it will need replacing soon. Also, check your battery for corrosion and ensure that the battery terminals are fitted tightly. Your WAV battery will also lose charge if it’s not used frequently. So, even if you have no plans to drive anywhere, start your engine up regularly to prolong the battery’s life and maintain its charging capability.

woman in wheelchair enjoying coffee and mobility

 

Inspect your tyres

Roads are at their most treacherous during winter. Therefore, it’s a good idea to give all your tyres a thorough check before undertaking a long journey during winter. Check the tyres’ wear pattern, especially the outer tread and shoulders and consider whether rotating the tyres will be sufficient or if it would be safer to replace them. While the minimum tread level is usually 1.6mm, it’s wise to have 3mm of tread during winter to help with grip and traction. It’s also important to know that cold weather can make your WAV’s tyre pressures drop, affecting fuel efficiency and safe driving. It’s a good idea to check your tyre pressure regularly in the winter months. Check your WAV handbook for the correct inflation levels.

Check your windscreen wipers

An important feature on your winter WAV checklist should be your windscreen wipers. Ice, rain, salt and grit on the roads during the winter can impair visibility, so having a sturdy set of wiper blades without any cracks or splits is essential. Wiper blades can also get frozen to your WAV’s windscreen. If this happens, make sure you clear your windscreen and ensure they lift off before switching them on. You can use de-icer or warm water, but never hot water, to free them from the windscreen if necessary. You should also ensure your washer fluid stays topped up with a 50/50 mix of water and washer fluid to stop the jets from freezing.

Look at your oil and coolant levels

Low oil levels can cause your WAV to break down or cause serious damage to your engine, which you especially don’t need during the winter. Check your oil level is between the minimum and maximum mark on your WAV’s dipstick, and top up if you need to. Refer to your owner’s handbook to find out what oil you should use. Likewise, keep a close eye on your WAVs coolant level to avoid engine freezing. Check the levels when the engine is cold, and refer to your WAV’s handbook for which coolant to use.

Inspect the wheelchair lifts and ramps

Each time you enter and exit your WAV, the conversion equipment in the vehicle is exposed to the winter elements. It’s, therefore, a good idea to check that all moving parts are clear of dirt and debris, such as road muck and leaves, and whether the ramp needs to be lubricated. If the ramp or straps need replacing, it’s better to do it before the winter weather takes hold. Salt, road grit and snow can cause corrosion and rust, so you should be extra vigilant during the winter and report any issues of concern to our Motability Customer Services team as soon as possible.

What to keep in your WAV over winter

It’s worth keeping a few essential items in your WAV to ensure you’re ready if you get stuck in cold and wintry weather.

  • Ice scraper and de-icer:
    While these are essential items to keep in your vehicle over winter, it’s also a legal requirement to ensure your front and rear windscreens are clear of snow and ice before you drive.
  • In-car phone charger:
    Keep an in-car phone charger handy in your vehicle, and you can keep your phone’s battery charged while you are out and about.
  • Warm clothes and blankets:
    It’s a good idea to have some blankets and warm clothes, such as a jumper, big coat, hat and gloves, in your WAV just in case you breakdown during the winter.
  • Jump leads:
    Dead or flat batteries can happen to any vehicle at any time of year, but it’s more likely to occur in cold weather. Always keep a set of jump leads in your vehicle, just in case.
  • Empty fuel can:
    Keep an empty fuel can in the boot of your WAV just in case your journey doesn’t go to plan and you find yourself without fuel.
  • Food and drink:
    Before you set off on a journey over the winter, it’s a good idea to take some snacks and drinks with you, just in case. Filling a flask with a hot drink is a really good idea.
  • Shovel:
    It’s always wise to keep a shovel in the back of your vehicle over winter just in case a snowstorm or blizzard has covered the road.
  • Sunglasses:
    The glare of the winter sun can seriously affect your visibility on the road, so keep a pair of sunglasses handy just in case.

Important contact numbers

An essential part of your winter WAV checklist should be to ensure you have all the contact numbers you need available to you if and when you need them should something happen:

What to do if your WAV breaks down

Breaking down on the road can be stressful enough for any road user, but for wheelchair users or those living with a disability, there’s an added worry of being stranded. We’ve put together these tips to help you know what to do if your WAV breakdowns on the road.

  • Try to get your WAV out of traffic by pulling into the kerbside on the hard shoulder or into an Emergency Refuge Area (look for a blue sign with an orange SOS symbol)
  • Turn your engine off and switch on your hazard lights
  • If it’s safe for you to do so, exit the vehicle, taking anything important with you, like your phone, coat, medication and water. Animals should stay in the vehicle for their own safety
  • Keep away from traffic by going behind a motorway safety barrier or onto a roadside pavement
  • If you don’t feel safe leaving your WAV, stay in the vehicle with your hazards and seatbelt on
  • If you’ve broken down on the hard shoulder or a refuge area, call the Highways agency on 0300 123 5000 and then call RAC Motability Assist on 0800 73 111 73. Explain that either you or your passenger is a wheelchair user and if there are any accessibility requirements or urgent medical needs
  • If there’s no refuge area or hard shoulder and you are stuck in a live motorway traffic lane and cannot move the vehicle, call 999 immediately and then call RAC Motability Assist

Summing up

Following our tips on preparing your WAV for winter will ensure you can continue enjoying hassle-free motoring regardless of the time of year. At GowringsVersa Mobility, we are confident in the quality and reliability of each of our mobility vehicles. However, if you have any queries or concerns about your vehicle, please call Motability customer services on 0300 456 4566. We are here to help you stay safe on the road in your WAV all year round.

If you are looking for a new, nearly new or used wheelchair accessible vehicle to help you get from A to B, GowringsVersa Mobility offers a wide range of vehicles. For more information, contact us any time at 0345 608 8020 or contact us online.

 

FAQs on Preparing Your WAV for Winter

Q: Why is it especially important to prepare my WAV for winter?
A: Preparing your WAV for winter is crucial due to the challenges posed by cold weather, such as poor weather conditions, a drop in temperature, and reduced visibility, which increase the likelihood of breakdowns.

Q: What should I check in my WAV as winter approaches?
A: Before winter sets in, ensure to check your lights and battery, inspect your tyres for wear and proper pressure, assess your windscreen wipers, and verify your oil and coolant levels. It’s also important to check the condition of wheelchair lifts and ramps.

Q: How can the cold weather affect my WAV’s battery?
A: Cold weather can slow down the chemical process in your WAV’s battery, reducing its capacity to hold a charge. This can lead to difficulties in starting your WAV’s engine. Regular checks and keeping the engine running periodically can help maintain battery life.

Q: What are the recommended tread levels for tyres in winter?
A: While the minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm, it’s advisable to have at least 3mm of tread during winter to improve grip and traction on slippery roads.

Q: How do I maintain visibility through my WAV’s windscreen in winter?
A: Ensure your windscreen wipers are in good condition without any cracks or splits, and keep your washer fluid topped up with a mix of water and washer fluid to prevent the jets from freezing.

Q: What items should I keep in my WAV during winter?
A: It’s wise to keep an ice scraper, de-icer, in-car phone charger, warm clothes, blankets, jump leads, an empty fuel can, food, drink, a shovel, and sunglasses in your WAV to be prepared for winter emergencies.

Q: What steps should I take if my WAV breaks down in winter?
A: If safe, move your WAV out of traffic, turn off your engine, and switch on your hazard lights. If you need to exit the vehicle, do so carefully and keep away from traffic. Call for assistance immediately, starting with the Highways Agency or RAC Motability Assist, and inform them of any specific needs or accessibility requirements.

Q: How can I ensure my WAV’s wheelchair lifts and ramps are winter-ready?
A: Check all moving parts of your WAV’s conversion equipment for dirt and debris, and ensure ramps are lubricated properly. Be vigilant for signs of corrosion or rust from salt and road grit, and report any concerns to Motability Customer Services.

 

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