10 tips for getting your car ready for winter

Last week’s big freeze caught thousands of motorists unawares and demonstrated just how important it is to ensure your car is prepared for cold weather.

With forecasters predicting further freezing temperatures ahead, here are our 10 top tips on how to drive safely this winter. You can also watch our video 'How to prepare your car for winter'.

Buy breakdown cover

Breakdown companies reported record call outs last weeks, as motorists struggled to contend with treacherous driving conditions. Whether your car conks out on the motorway in the snow or you accidentally lock your keys inside car while de-icing it, a breakdown policy could save you potentially hundreds of pounds.

Comprehensive cover starts from as little as £30 a year, so driving without it could prove a false economy if you consider that some garages charge call-out fees which are more than double this.

More importantly, it also means you have someone to call when you are stuck. Otherwise, you’d risk having to join the queue for your nearest garage – and you won’t necessarily be a priority.

By comparing breakdown cover policies, you can find the best price for the protection you need and have peace of mind this winter.

Pack warm things

If you’re planning to hop into a warm car and drive to a warm office, you may not bother taking a coat. But if you do break down, the safest place to be is outside the car and away from the road.

That means it’s essential to take warm clothes with you on every journey.

With so many drivers getting stuck in traffic overnight because of snow, it’s also a good idea to pack blankets or even a duvet in the boot – just in case.

You won’t be able to keep your engine running indefinitely and you don’t want to freeze. If you’re going on a long journey in the cold, you might also want to pack a flask of hot tea or coffee in case you end up stranded. 

Get your vehicle serviced

If you want to have real confidence in your car this winter, why not get it serviced? If your vehicle is in good running order then you can feel more confident about the journeys you do have to make.

Ask your garage to check and replace the anti-freeze in your radiator too, giving you extra protection from a weather-related breakdown.

Now is a good time to consider investing in a new car battery too. Most have two to four years of reliable life, so if yours is older then consider replacing it before it gives up the ghost and leaves you stranded.

Plan every journey carefully

When driving conditions are hazardous, you should limit the time you spend on the road as much as possible.

Getting lost or taking longer routes increases your chances of trouble, so plan every journey in advance.

It may even be worth investing in a SatNav so that you can take the shortest or quickest journey possible.

Watch out for warnings

When there’s a severe weather warning, or the police are recommending you only drive if you have to, take these seriously. Give some thought to which journeys are really necessary and don’t go out if it isn’t important.

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Pack a few essentials

As well as warm clothes and blankets, if you can take a few minutes to pack some winter gear in your vehicle, you’ll be better placed to cope with anything the big freeze throws at you.

You should carry a torch, de-icer and scraper, battery jump leads, first aid kit and even a shovel if you’re experiencing particularly heavy snow.

Don’t forget sunglasses so that the low winter sun doesn’t make it difficult to see the road, and make sure your phone is fully charged before you set out.

Have a clean windscreen

Are your wiper blades worn and is your screen washer running low? This is not a good idea in the winter, when visibility is dramatically reduced by the weather, while a low sun highlights every smear on the screen but makes it hard to see the road.

Replace your windscreen wipers if needed and top up your screen washer. Consider adding less water to the concentrate solutions, to make it even less likely to freeze over.

Also, never be tempted to drive off without fully clearing your windows of ice and condensation. If you caused an accident because you couldn’t see clearly, your car insurance premiums could rocket.

Clear snow from the roof of your car to prevent it falling across your windscreen once you get up to speed.

Keep your lights clear

In this filthy weather, it isn’t just your windscreen that gets grimy. Regularly wipe your lights and check the bulbs so that you can be confident other road users can see you.

Check your tyres

Are your tyres up to the gruelling weather? While many of us would prefer not to kit our car out with expensive snow tyres unless it’s absolutely essential, there are still ways to help your tyres get through the winter.

Check they have a suitably deep tread so that they can grip the road in icy conditions, and ensure they are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure for the vehicle and load.

Drive well

No matter how ready your car is to brave the weather, if you’re not driving carefully then you’re still at risk.

Leave extra time for journeys so that you aren’t rushing in poor weather conditions and don’t be tempted to speed when visibility is bad and the roads are icy or wet.

Remember to leave an extra long stopping space between vehicles and to be aware of how the wind can affect your steering, especially in exposed locations like bridges.

Never speed in wintry weather; you may not be able to see what you’re speeding towards and black ice could cause you to skid out of control..

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