Winter motoring checklist

Prepare for the worst and hope for the best

What to do now to prepare for the winter ahead

What to do now to prepare for the winter ahead

Two out of the last three winters have seen widespread snow and ice for weeks on end with temperatures regularly falling below -10C.

You're more likely to break down in a bad winter – the AA had its busiest day ever on Monday 4 January 2010 and then again, less than 12 months later, on Monday 20 December 2010 when AA patrols handled more than 28,000 breakdowns.

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 or chains.  You could face a wait of several hours until the blockage and other traffic ahead has been cleared.

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

Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  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

 

Preparing for winter

AA patrol Paul Harrison shows how to make sure your car's ready for winter

(updated 23 October 2012)