Driving in winter
As days get shorter, colder and icier, make sure you and your car are ready for winter.
Driving safely is often more of a challenge in winter. But it’s a challenge we think you’re more than up to!
Ok, it’s true that accidents on the road are more likely in winter. But if you’re mindful of certain things and keep your wits about you, you’ll be just fine. Just follow these winter driving tips and stay safe whenever you hit the road.
What you need for winter driving
Here’s a checklist of useful things to keep in the car. Some of these may sound like overkill, but you’ll thank us if you break down:
- Ice scraper
- Warm clothing
- First aid kit
- Jump leads
- Emergency food
Before you set off
First of all, be sure you’ve done your winter car checks. You can read about these in more detail below.
Then each time you intend to drive:
- Clear all snow and ice from windows. Use a jug of lukewarm water for this. Don’t use boiling water as it isn’t good to bring an object from one extreme temperature to the other.
- Make sure your mirrors are clear and windows demisted. Leave a few minutes early to do this if you need to be somewhere on time.
- Ensure lights and number plates are clearly visible. No further explanation needed.
- Remove all snow that may fall off into the path of other road users. Good thing you remembered that shovel!
- Check your planned route is clear. Also check that there’s no severe weather warnings.
When you’re on the road
- Keep well back from the vehicle in front. Stopping distances can be ten times greater than usual.
- Take care when overtaking vehicles spreading salt or de-icer, especially if you’re a cyclist or motorcyclist.
- Prepare for the road conditions to change, even over relatively short distances.
- Listen to travel bulletins. And look out for variable message signs that may provide info about weather, road and traffic conditions. If you have a passenger, they can give you updates from any traffic app.
- If the road is particularly snowy or icy, drive at a slow speed in as high a gear as possible. Make sure you go particularly slowly on bends, and steer slowly, avoiding sudden actions.
Winter driving checks
It’s always smart to give your car a full health check coming into winter. These are the main ones.
1. Check your lights
As night falls early in the winter, you want your lights to be in tip-top condition. Not least because you may need them when visibility is seriously reduced. So it’s important to make sure all your lights are clean and working properly. Replace any broken bulbs immediately. It might not be a bad idea to keep a spare set in the car.
2. Test your windscreen wipers
Check that your windscreen wiper blades are working and in good condition as they may also need replacing. Also remember to switch off your wipers when you’re parked during winter. Wipers can freeze to the windscreen. And this can damage the blades or wiper motor when you switch on the engine.
3. Clean your windows regularly
As the temperature starts to drop, you’ll notice condensation appearing on your windows more frequently. Driving with limited visibility from condensation on the windscreen can obviously be dangerous. As mentioned, leave a bit of extra time to demist them.
Also wash windows frequently, as grime will also make things worse. Be sure to check the windscreen washer fluids’ recommended proportions, as you’ll need more in winter.
4. Check your brakes
Heavy rain, ice and snow can leave road surfaces super slippery and hazardous. Braking is more dangerous in these conditions, and the change in temperature can also reduce their efficiency, so make sure you get them checked.
5. Check your tyres
For the same reasons, making sure your tyres are up to scratch is extra important during winter. Although the legal limit is 1.6mm, aim for at least 3mm of tread during winter. You could also invest in winter or all-season tyres for a better grip.
Plunging temperatures can wreak havoc with your car. Spending a few pounds on antifreeze can save you hundreds compared to repairing a frozen engine. Make sure you use the right type of antifreeze and use a 50-50 mix with water to protect your engine.
Of course, it’s important that your vehicle is safe at any time of year. Here’s the car safety checks you need to make all-year round.
Heading out on a festive trip with friends this winter? Remember that it’s easy to get tired when it’s cold and dark outside, even when you’re behind the wheel. Share the driving and make sure you get a break with temporary car insurance.