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Driving home for Christmas? Make sure your motor is up to it

Driving home in winterBrits travel more than 200 miles over Christmas to visit friends and family, according to new research. So it’s worth making sure your vehicle is ready for the roads beforehand with these simple steps.

Britain’s motorists have been battling freezing temperatures for weeks now and, with Christmas just days away, many are preparing to travel further afield to visit friends and family.

A survey by car manufacturer Saab has found that the typical family will rack up 207 miles and make five stops to drop off presents this Christmas.

With all that mileage, not to mention the cold snap, your motor could be under more pressure than usual.

So, to avoid a festive breakdown, or disruptions to your Christmas plans, it’s worth taking some time now to give your car a mini overhaul.

Basic vehicle checks

It’s important to make sure your car is roadworthy before a long trip, especially during winter. Drivers should take some time to carry out a few easy maintenance checks to avoid any weather-related mishaps.

  • Firstly, check your tyres. They should have the legal minimum of 2mm tread but, for wet or frosty conditions, the AA recommend fitting new tyres if you have anything less than 3mm.
  • To make sure your engine can cope with a cold snap, put some anti-freeze in the cooling system. This way your pipes won’t crack if the temperature drops. Also add some to your windscreen washer system to help de-ice the windscreen.
  • Consider replacing the battery if it’s five years old or more. It might struggle in the cold.

Driver awareness

Winter driving should also prompt motorists to adapt their driving habits. If you’re off on a road trip this Christmas, take note of the following tips:

  • Take care to drive slower, this will mean leaving more time for any journeys.
  • Short days and long nights mean more journeys are likely to take place in the dark, so adjust your driving to allow for reduced visibility.
  • Other drivers, especially inexperienced motorists, can cause an additional hazard. Be alert.
  • Drive to match the weather conditions – don’t drive excessively fast in the ice/rain/fog, and keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
  • Check the weather in advance. That way you’ll know to allow extra time or make any special preparations.

In-car essentials

Last year’s plunging temperatures stranded hundreds of people on UK roads. Sleeping in the back of your car in sub-zero temperatures would be a driver’s worst nightmare at the best of times, but imagine facing a similar situation at Christmas.

If you want to avoid that sort of scenario, be sure to get some essential kit together that can protect you if anything goes wrong.

  • An emergency warning triangle in case of breakdown
  • A torch
  • A blanket
  • Some emergency rations, including water
  • A fully charged mobile phone
  • Jump leads – to help you restart if the battery dies
  • De-icer
  • Windscreen scraper

Winter insurance

If you haven’t done it already, check with your insurer to make sure your car is protected with adequate car insurance in case of damage from a weather-related accident or vehicle failure.

Buying breakdown cover is also wise. If you don’t have it already or if you’re worried about what to do if you get stuck or break down in adverse weather conditions, check out’s winter breakdown tips.

One final tip: the British Insurance Brokers’ Association has also warned against leaving your car unattended on cold mornings when the engine is warming up.Thieves target vehicles with keys left in the ignition while the owner is indoors waiting for their vehicle to defrost, so don’t allow yourself be caught out.

Please watch our 30-second guide for more information.


Lois Avery

Lois Avery

Lois joined in 2010 after working for Dyson and as a local newspaper reporter in Wiltshire. After a year writing financial journalism at, Lois won the 2011 'most promising newcomer' at the BIBA journalist of the year awards.

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