Preparing Your Car For Winter

You're more likely to break down in a bad winter.

There's more risk of delays too but not necessarily in the way you'd expect. If vehicles ahead lose control – a jack-knifed lorry for example – you won't be able to get through no matter how well equipped your car is with winter tyres. You could face a wait of several hours until the blockage and other traffic ahead has been cleared.

So here's what you need to do this winter to reduce the risk of a breakdown and make sure that you are equipped to deal with the conditions.

Check your car

  • Antifreeze - check coolant level regularly and, if required, top-up with a mixture of the correct type of antifreeze. Your garage should check concentration to ensure adequate cold temperature protection. 
  • Battery - the most common cause of winter breakdowns. A battery more than five years old may struggle in the cold - get it checked and replaced if necessary to avoid the inconvenience of an unplanned failure. 
  • Fuel - keep at least a quarter of a tank in case of unexpected delay. 
  • Lights - check and clean all lights regularly to make sure you can see and be seen clearly. Carry spare bulbs. 
  • Tyres - should have at least 3mm of tread for winter motoring. Consider winter tyres for improved safety. Check pressures at least every fortnight. 
  • Windscreen - reduce dazzle from the low sun by keeping the screen clean inside and out. Now is a good time to renew worn wiper blades. 
  • Screen wash - use a 50% mix of a good quality screen wash to reduce the chance of freezing in frosty weather. 
  • Locks and door seals - stop doors freezing shut with a thin coat of polish or Vaseline on rubber door seals. A squirt of water dispersant (WD-40) in locks will help stop them freezing.

You and your passengers

As well as the things you should be carrying on every journey regardless of the weather, you should make up a winter emergency kit to keep in the boot – hopefully you won’t need it but you will be very glad it's there if you do.

Year-round essentials

• Fully-charged mobile phone and in-car charger
• Sunglasses – to deal with glare from the sun or snow
• Personal medication
• Warning triangle
• Spare bulbs
• First aid kit
• Road atlas – in case of diversions
• Sat-nav or printed route for unfamiliar journeys
• Breakdown membership card

Winter emergency kit

• Blanket, rug or sleeping bag
• Shovel
• Bits of carpet or thick cardboard to place under driven wheels to help regain traction on ice or snow
• Salt, sand or cat litter – to help clear snow and ice
• Reflective jacket(s)
• Ice scraper and de-icer
• Torch and batteries
• Tow rope
• Snow chains (if you live in a remote or rural area)
• Battery jump leads
• Bottled water
• Snacks – chocolate or cereal bars
• Extra screen wash

When bad weather is forecast

• Warm winter coat, scarf, hat, gloves and warm clothes
• Waterproofs
• Sturdy boots
• Flask of hot drink