Winter defences

Winter weather can cause all sorts of havoc with your Dub – but it’s not too late to prepare your car for the cold weather ahead. Here’s some precautions you can take while you wait out the worst of the cold, rain and snow…

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Road salt and road grime can prove a deadly combination for your car’s beautiful body, so get busy now by treating your it to a serious pre-winter spruce up. Start by giving it a wash, then use a good quality wax to give your paintwork a fighting chance of fending off what the worst of the winter has to throw at it. Don’t forget to do your wheels, too. Now’s also the time to sort any stonechips before they get worse. Underneath, use a jetwash to remove trapped mud and blocked drainage holes then, when it’s nice and dry, apply a rustproofing wax treatment. In truth this is best done in the summer, but if you can get your car in a warm workshop it’s a case of better now than never… Don’t ignore the plenum chamber (the gap between the windscreen and bulkhead on water-cooled VWs) as this can fill with leaves, causing water to flood into your interior.

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While air-cooled Dub owners won’t have to worry, water-pumper enthusiasts need to ensure they’ve got their engines have the correct anti-freeze concentration and coolant level. Buy a coolant hydrometer to check it – they’re only a fiver from accessory shops. Alternatively, get a specialist to check the concentration properly using a pukka refractometer (no, we haven’t just made that up!). At the same time, check all your water hoses and clamps – this is just the kind of thing that could leave you stranded on a dark, snowy night…


Cold weather makes engine oil thicker which in turn makes an engine harder to turn over. At the same time batteries become less efficient as temperatures drop so it’s essential to have a battery that is in rude health. Check all your lights and seal any cracks in lenses before water gets in and ruins them. Once you’ve done this, systematically go through all your wiring to make sure there’s no dodgy connections as winter can quickly unearth (sorry) weak points in your ignition system. Talking of which, why not treat your air-cooled VW to a new dizzy cap, set of leads and points so you are well and winter-proofed…


Get some rubber floor mats if you haven’t done so already to protect those carpets and original rubber flooring. Cheap ones should do the trick, but watch they don’t ruck up and get stuck under your pedals. Seat covers are a good idea so you don’t wreck that rare early water-cooled fabric seat material. Lubricate locks, hinges and catches – and that includes the bonnet! Be sure to replace any damaged door or window seals to prevent leaks – and the risk of rust later on! On Beetles, specifically, keep an eye on the floorpan back and front and particularly under the back seat. If you notice any pools of water, act immediately and if necessary scrape off the thick sound insulation so water doesn’t get trapped underneath and rot out the floorpan.

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Tyres/wipers and windows
Tyres should have at least 2.5mm of tread left on them, so now’s a good time to bin any that are looking past their best. Winter tyres made from grippier rubber with specially designed water dissipating treads make sense if you live up north or do a lot of winter driving. Make sure your windscreen is free from cracks because they’ll get worse when it freezes, and check that your wiper blade rubbers are in good nick. A good tip also at this time of year when it gets dark at 4 O’clock is to clean the inside of your screen to improve night time vision. Beetle demisters are never that brilliant, but getting underneath and checking all the heat exchanger hoses are in place might help.

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Finally, drive safely – so if the roads are totally flooded or impassable because of snow, don’t risk it. Stay at home!


The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of VW Heritage


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