As Britain starts to thaw out from the deep freeze, thousands of motorists will be returning to claim vehicles that they were forced to abandon in the dangerous, icy conditions. Thousands more will be faced with restarting vehicles that have spent many days covered in snow and ice.

Research from leading oil brand Castrol has found that around a sixth of Brits has been leaving longer periods between services to save pennies in the recession and approximately one ten of us have been ignoring the need for minor repairs to things like body work.

In such extreme weather these seemingly small oversights may result in more widespread damage to vehicles.

Motoring expert Quentin Willson comments; “Brits are fairly slack when it comes to basic car maintenance. When severe weather hits any problems caused by neglect can become painfully apparent.

The research shows that around 50 per cent of drivers are not using the right oil for their car. Cold weather often causes oil to thicken, so if you’re already using the wrong type for your car it might not start and you could risk engine damage or premature wear.”

* Top Tips To Thaw Out The Car

- Put a blanket over your windscreen the night before and tuck it under the wipers. The screen shouldn’t freeze and the wipers won’t get stuck to the glass. You can also buy Pre Icer spray that stops the screen from freezing.

- Get up ten minutes earlier. Defrosting icy cars takes time. If you’re running the engine to defrost in your drive don’t leave the car unattended. Lock the doors with the spare key and keep the car in sight. Show reasonable care otherwise you won’t be insured. Putting both sunvisors in the horizontal position helps direct the flow of warm air back to the screen.

- If the door lock is frozen, hold your key over a lighter for 15 seconds to heat it up, and insert the key into the lock. It may take more than one attempt to completely thaw it out. Better still spray some WD40 into the lock barrel the night before and it won’t freeze at all.

- Door seals and handles can freeze over and jam. To melt the ice, pour warm water round the door and handle. Never use very hot or boiling water as this could crack the glass. Wipe off any excess, as it will freeze again.

- Check your exhaust pipe isn’t blocked with ice or snow. The car will be hard to start and toxic fumes could leak back in to interior.

- If the car is slow to turn over the battery has probably had it. Change it as soon as possible. When you’re starting a cold engine make sure the fan, heated rear window and any other electrical systems are turned off. Loading the battery during cold starts will reduce its power.

- Ensure that the oil in your car is the right type and grade for your engine. Low temperatures will thicken oil and cause slower starting. For advice about the right oil for your vehicle, simply text OIL to 83080*, enter your car registration number, and details of the correct oil, along with a picture of the product will be sent to your phone.

- Buy some windscreen washer fluid and check the resevoir. Don’t dilute with water but fill with concentrated solution that will stop the water freezing as low as minus five degrees.

- Once you’ve driven off and your tyres have warmed up don’t forget to check the tyre pressures and condition. This should be done at least once a week in normal conditions, but is especially important in severe weather. Worn tyres won’t grip. Winter tyres give better traction in snow and ice and cost around £50 each although their speed ratings are lower.

-Never drive off with your windscreen or side windows partly defrosted. The small amount of time you’ll save isn’t worth the risk of ending up in a ditch!