Winter car kit

Driving during winter can lead to all kinds of unpredictable situations. Here's a list of all the kit you could ever need to keep safe

John Evans
Sep 16, 2021

With winter weather being so unpredictable, enough to easily catch you out, it pays to be prepared. The average winter can be cold, wet, slippery and dark - just to name a few - so road conditions can become rather treacherous in just a matter of moments. Whether your car has iced over from being parked overnight or you have been caught out and stranded in heavy snowfall, carrying the correct winter kit will help to keep you safe and warm and should get you back on the move as soon as is reasonably possible.

Although different weather conditions demand different preparations, there are some things you can do to safeguard yourself regardless of whatever nature throws at you. Read on and we'll share our tips for staying safe on the road this winter.

Staying safe in rain

Reduced visibility, increased braking distances, an increased risk of sliding and aquaplaning, plus the threat of having your view obliterated by a tidal wave of water thrown up by passing vehicles are just a few of the perils awaiting you when you venture out in heavy rain.

Obviously there are driving techniques you can employ to mitigate these risks including reducing your speed, increasing the distance between you and the car in front and making sure your tyres are in good condition (the minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm in a continuous band around the central three-quarters of the tyre).

However, in addition, there are things you can do and take with you to help make driving in rain less stressful. They include:

Correct glasses

If you wear glasses, make sure your prescription is up to date. As well as reducing visibility, rain causes oncoming headlights to flare, making judging distances and speed much more difficult. Paying for an anti-glare coating on your lenses is well worth the small extra cost.

Windscreen wipers

Don’t wait until your car’s MOT to change torn and worn out wiper blades; instead, invest in a new set now. They aren’t usually very expensive and you’ll be amazed how efficiently they clear the windscreen. Even if they’re just noisy, it is still worth changing them because a long journey in the rain is made doubly tedious by persistently squeaky blades.

Windscreen washer

You should always keep your windscreen wash topped up, not least because old road salt mixed with rainwater leaves a fine white smear across the windscreen that reduces visibility. Also, even in clear conditions, bird dirt or other debris could still land on your windscreen at any time. Screenwash will clean these obstructions away with a single sweep of your wipers.

Raincoat and wellies

It’s obvious but the comfort of a correctly functioning car in normal conditions can blind us to the fact that in winter, there tends to be a lot of rain. Waterproof clothing will be essential if you’re forced to leave your car for any reason.

Spare tyre and tyre repair equipment you know how to use

Punctures often occur in the rain because water acts as a lubricant, helping sharp objects penetrate the tyre. So, if your car has a spare tyre, check it’s correctly inflated and that the tread is at least the minimum legal depth. If you have a puncture repair kit, check that it’s all present and correct and that you definitely know how to use it.

Staying safe in the snow

Take the risks associated with driving in rain and then double them. That’s what you will face when driving in snow and ice. Braking distances increase even further, the risk of losing control increases and heavy snowfall can obliterate your vision. Worse still, all of the above is happening to those around you as well, so extra awareness of surrounding cars that may suddenly swerve towards you is also necessary. You may even find yourself coming across one that has stopped dead in your path for some reason or another.

Driving in such conditions requires special driving techniques but aside from these, there are items of equipment you should have with you to ensure that if the worst happens, you’re prepared.

Warm clothing

The warmth of a modern car can blind us to how cold it is outside and how cold it can become inside the car when the engine is no longer running. For these reasons, always pack an extra jacket, a hat and gloves, sturdy shoes or wellingtons, and even a blanket should you be forced to wait in your car if you find yourself stranded or broken down.

A flask of soup, tea or coffee

This might seem like overkill if you only have a short journey but if you’re planning to drive over high ground or perhaps to the east of the country where icy cold easterly winds and wet westerlies often meet with catastrophic results, you’ll be glad you made the extra effort.

A shovel and planks of wood

The former could mean the difference between being stuck or being on your way, while the latter could help give your tyres something to grip to as you drive out of a snowdrift, or even your own driveway if you’re snowed under.

Pre-mixed screen wash

It’s surprising how quickly you can drain your car’s screenwash tank as you desperately try to clean away the grainy white smear left by road salt on the car’s windscreen. For this reason, it makes sense to pack a pre-mixed top-up bottle of the stuff, rather than waiting for the next service stop.

Ice scraper and de-icer

With your car’s windscreen heater or heated windscreen running you’re unlikely to need either, but if you need to stop in the road or park up for a while then your windscreen could refreeze surprisingly quickly in the right conditions.

Staying safe in all winter weather

Regardless of what nature throws at you this winter, there are items of equipment you should always take with you when you set out in your car:

A torch and spare batteries

A torch will prove invaluable when crouched beside a punctured tyre trying to loosen the wheel studs or when squinting at instructions. Also handy when lighting your way to safety or for alerting other road users to your presence. Although most phones now feature a torch function, using a basic torch instead will free up your phone for other uses and preserve its battery - vital for any emergency calls you may need to make.

Road map

A sat nav is all very well but when you have to improvise your way out of a blocked road a good old-fashioned map will provide you with a broader picture of the surrounding area’s roads, allowing you to make an informed decision.

Mobile phone

Make sure your phone is always connected and charging where possible. You don’t want to find yourself with barely any charge left and who knows how long a wait in prospect.

Breakdown membership card

Most organisations will allow you to join at the roadside but you’ll pay more for the privilege. In any case, your card and/or app will show you the right number to call.

A final word

Remember to tell people where you’re going, which route you’re taking and when you expect to arrive. There have been enough tales of lost drivers to make this the most important piece of advice of all.

 

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