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Sue Hayward

10 tips for driving in winter


Stay safe on the roads this winter with our handy guide to driving during the colder months.

Winter road covered in snow
Darker nights, frosty mornings and icy roads can make driving in winter a challenge for even the most experienced motorist.

But a little extra preparation can go a long way. Here are our tips for driving safely in winter.

1. Know before you go

Before you set off on a journey, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast, travel news and safest routes.

You should also allow extra journey time to avoid having to rush.

2. Carry a winter breakdown kit

It’s wise to keep a few essentials in your car in case of an untimely breakdown.

Here’s a list of things you may want to stash in your boot:

  • shovel

  • torch

  • ice scraper and de-icer

  • warm clothes and blankets for you and any passengers

  • first-aid kit

  • jump-start cables

  • snacks and a warm drink in a thermos

  • mobile phone charger

  • reflective warning sign

  • snow grips for your shoes (or boots) in case you need to walk to safety

3. Check your tyre tread depth

A few simple car checks will go a long way to ensuring you have a smooth journey in winter.

It's especially important to check your tyres - the minimum legal limit for tyre tread is 1.6mm.

But Andy Smith, former AA Patrolman of the Year, recommends at least 3mm of tread for winter driving.

He says: "Consider changing to winter tyres, as these have a higher silica content in the tread – which gives you better grip in cold and wet conditions."

Winter tyres on a snowy road

4. Keep your fuel tank topped up

It’s a good idea to keep at least a quarter of a tank of fuel in case of an unexpected delay.

If you have a bit of motor know-how, check your brake pads, brake discs and brake fluid to ensure the brakes are fast and responsive.

Alternatively, a garage will be able to do this for you.

5. Consider breakdown cover

Comprehensive breakdown cover is crucial at this time of year, and will give you the peace of mind of knowing you won’t end up stranded in the cold.

So check your policy and remember to take a contact phone number with you on all journeys.

6. De-ice your windscreen

Before going anywhere, it’s important that you've got a clear, unobscured view of the world.

"Don’t set off like a tank commander with a tiny hole cleared in your windscreen," says Smith.

"Make sure you clear your screen and windows properly with a scraper and de-icer."

Check your wipers too, as if the blades are in poor shape, they won't clean your screen properly.

Woman scraping ice from car window

7. Keep your distance

Once on the road, stopping distances can be 10 times longer in ice and snow. Careful manoeuvres are the key to safe driving.

Smith says motorists should always make a conscious effort to increase the space between their vehicle and the one in front. 

8. Use your gears

Selwyn Fernandes from LV= car insurance advises pulling away in a higher gear, "as this can prevent you doing a wheel spin.

And use your gears to slow down as this helps you keep control of your car".

He adds: "If you do skid, steer in the direction of the skid and try not to brake or accelerate until you’re back in control."

9. Keep a constant speed on hills

Hills can cause added problems when the roads are slippery.

Try to avoid stopping part-way up by waiting until the road ahead is clear, and try to keep a constant speed to avoid changing gear on the hill.

10. Watch out for leaves

Some of the same rules apply to driving in wet weather as they do in icy conditions – keep your distance from the driver in front and drop your speed.

Also watch out for leaves, which can be slippery when wet, and avoid hard acceleration or braking as it can cause skidding.

Want more advice?

Proper car maintenance can go a long way to ensuring safe winter driving.

For more info on how to care for your car, read our basic motor maintenance tips or watch the video below.


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