“Don’t neglect your car or it will let you down,» advise mechanics as winter approaches, bringing the kind of weather that favors road accidents. Data from the ELPA road assistance organization show that one in two car breakdowns could be averted by regular car maintenance. Apart from bad driving, the most common causes of breakdowns in winter are flat batteries (22.5 percent), electrical faults (16.8 percent), poor tires (5.5 percent) and engine failure (4.8 percent). As ELPA road assistance chief Nikos Karalis told Kathimerini, these are problems that could have been avoided had the drivers not neglected to have their vehicles serviced regularly. But there is no need for drivers to spend a lot of time at the mechanic’s shop. As Karalis explained, they can easily check the condition of their cars by following a few practical guidelines, something that is essential when undertaking a trip. «For a start,» said Karalis, «you have to check the battery, as it gives no warning of when it is about to go flat. The battery bears its date of manufacture and one should know that they last about three years, so when they approach their expiry date, one should be prepared to change them. «A quick glance will show whether the battery terminals are corroded. If they are, there’s a bad connection somewhere that needs attention.» Tires need checking too. «Tires age with time and don’t respond as well to sudden braking,» said Karalis. Check them by looking at the number; for instance, 0303 means they were made in the third week of 2003. «Always check the number when you buy new tires as they may have been sitting on a shelf for ages in the warehouse and have deteriorated.» Tires should not be bald. The Traffic Code stipulates a minimum ridge depth of 1.6 mm. And, of course, tire pressure must be checked regularly. Tires in good condition can help keep vehicles from swerving off the road or getting caught in multi-vehicle pileups. Windscreen wiper blades should also be checked. High temperatures in summer can make the rubber crack so that it cannot keep the windscreen clean. Air conditioners and ventilation must be checked to see that they can defog the windows. As the days get colder, put radiator anti-freeze and water in the windscreen wiper fluid compartment. Inspect the level of oil, brake and gear box fluid, check the cables, and you’re ready to go.