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
Jan 23, 2020

Winter is a very unpredictable time of year when it comes to the state of the weather and our roads. It's dark, it's cold and it's wet, and that can lead to pretty severe driving conditions that can turn even the simplest of journeys into a hazardous event. Stand by for lots of news stories concerning cars stranded in snow and floods, or drivers battling to get to or from work in freezing fog and hailstorms. Even at a local level, you're likely to witness scenes of motorists struggling to start their cars on their driveways with a cup of coffee in one hand and an ice scraper in the other.

So how can you avoid becoming the winter weather’s next victim? The old boy scout mantra, be prepared, springs to mind. Or that other one, fail to plan and plan to fail. Both are good pieces of advice, although different weather conditions demand different preparations, while 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 and 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 cars 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 its torn wiper blades; instead, invest in a new set now. You’ll be amazed how efficiently they clear the windscreen. Even if they’re just noisy, change them because a long journey in the rain is made doubly tedious by blades that squeak across the glass.

Windscreen washer

Keep your windscreen washer topped, up not least because old road salt mixed with rain water leaves a fine white smear across the windscreen that reduces visibility. Screen wash will clean it 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, rain – lots of it – happens. Waterproof clothing will be essential if you’re forced to abandon your car or fix a puncture. Talking of which…

Spare tyre and tyre repair equipment you know how to use

Punctures often occur in 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 the minimum legal depth. If you have puncture a repair kit check first that it’s all present and correct and second, that you know how to use it.

Staying safe in snow

Think of the risks associated with driving in rain and then double them. That’s driving in snow and ice for you. Braking distances increase, 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 necesary, while you may find yourself coming across one that has stopped dead in your path.

Driving in such conditions requires special 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 in winter and how cold it can become 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 for rescue.

A flask of soup, tea or coffee

This might seem like overkill if you only have a short commute to make but if you’re planning a longer journey that might take you 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 snow drift.

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 running you’re unlikely to need either but what if you’re forced to pull over and wait while rescue services clear the road? Depending on how long you’ve been waiting, you’ll need both of them then.

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 that works

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.

Road map

A sat nav is all very well but when you have to improvise your way out of a blocked road this may just give you the route options as well as the area overview you need.

Mobile phone

Make sure your phone is always connected and charging. You don’t want to find yourself with only 5% 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 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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