How to prepare for winter driving

While driving is more hazardous in the winter than the summer, if you’re properly prepared there’s nothing to be afraid of. The key thing is that when it gets really cold you can’t afford to be lulled into a false sense of security.

Even when things look safe, they may not be, so always drive carefully. When the temperatures fall, road surfaces are often wet and/or covered in frost, ice or snow – but not necessarily uniformly. 

Even when things look safe, they may not be, so always drive carefully

If you have to drive in winter, listen to weather forecasts and travel bulletins and if conditions deteriorate while you’re en route, be prepared to change your plans. Also consider whether that journey really is essential.

Winter preparations 

  • Prepare your vehicle beforehand: check tyre pressures, top up your washer fluid and make sure all your lights are working.
  • Check the weather before setting out – don’t ignore police warnings about closed roads.
  • Ensure you have de-icer and a scraper.  Before setting off, clean any ice or condensation from all the windows.
  • A squirt of WD40 prevents your door locks from freezing up.
  • Where you park can help reduce your risk of being involved in someone else’s accident. So look for off-road parking where possible, or gritted roads if not.
  • Make sure your wipers are in the off position when you stop – they can freeze to the window.
  • Share the driving on long journeys, as fatigue is likely to set in.
  • Take regular breaks, ideally every two hours or less.
  • Let someone at your destination know what time you expect to arrive.
  • Ensure you have plenty of fuel, and carry everything in the Winter essentials list below.
  • Make sure your breakdown provider’s details are already in your mobile phone.

Winter essentials

When really bad weather hits, it doesn’t matter whether you’re five miles from home or 150; you could be stranded by blocked roads or a bust car. That’s why there are certain bits of kit that you should carry: 

  • Tow rope
  • Shovel
  • Wellington boots
  • A hazard warning triangle
  • De-icer
  • First aid kit
  • Torch & batteries
  • Blanket
  • Jacket
  • Emergency rations (hot drink & chocolate bars)
  • Mobile phone & charger

Top tip

Download a handy winter driving booklet from the Guild of Experienced Motorists and don't forget to check the Highways Agency website for general advice and info along with the Agency's traffic update service.

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