Winter driving – getting ready for the cold spell – preparation for the road

Winter is well under way, but we’ve not had the worst of the bad weather yet. We are at that in-between time when we know summer has long gone, and maybe even wishing it would hurry up back. It may also be the time when we go into panic stations about snow forecasts, storm warnings, salt shortages and ‘Gritter’ Twitter feeds. That’s where we come in… we have some very useful information that may help you be a bit better prepared for the winter weather this year.

Now’s the time to take a moment and think about what we should be doing to prepare for the arrival of the ‘Beast from the East’ or some other mean relation. Why not use this calm before the storm to prepare our car for winter and be ready for what may come?

We all have a ‘Check list’ right? Check the lights, inspect the tyres, test the antifreeze, fill the windscreen washer stuff … heard it all before?  Of course you have, it’s the same advice that is given out every winter.

But come on, be honest – do we do it? Or do we wait until the frost and slushy stuff arrive and realise that we have no fluid in our windscreen washers, that we are driving with dirty windows or our car tyres are not suitable for the weather conditions.

So why not stop leaving things to chance and spend a bit of time checking the important things that will keep you, your loved ones and other road users safe when the weather gets bad?

Over the years, cars have changed and technology has moved on, so we may well get complacent and think that our cars will alert us to problems when they arise. They might well do, but no matter what technology or sensors we have in our cars we should still be undertaking the most basic checks at least once a month, especially at the beginning of and throughout the winter.

To help you keep as safe as possible when you are out and about this winter we have put together these helpful hints: 

Plan your journey

Before you set off, plan your journey carefully. Use a website such as the RAC Route Planner to get updates on traffic news to help make your journey as smooth as possible.

Make sure you take a look at the weather forecast regularly and keep up-to-date with local weather to ensure you aren’t caught out.

Look out for others

In dark, dreary conditions, it’s more important than ever to look out for other, more vulnerable road users. It may be dark when children and young people are travelling to and from school, so be aware of this when driving through residential areas and near schools. Give cyclists at least 1.5 metres when overtaking and take extra care to check (and check again) for people on bikes and motorcycles when turning into and pulling out of junctions.

Leave more time

If we’ve had a scattering of snow, allow for more time than you normally would before you leave to clear car windows, mirrors, lights and the top of your roof before setting off.

When the temperature drops, you will also need to de-ice your windscreen, and take time to clear the inside of your windscreen too as it is illegal to drive without full visibility through all of your windows. You can read more on the how to demist your windscreen in double-quick time page.

The following checks will also be time consuming so think about factoring them in too before you set off. Some local garages offer winter car checks, it may be worth checking them out.

Check your wipers

Make sure any auto wiper control is switched off before turning the ignition on as this could blow the wiper control fuse if they are frozen to the screen. Your wipers need to be in good working order so you’re able to clean your windscreen effectively.

Check your tyres

Check your tyres for adequate tread. Do you need more advice on how and why it is important to check them? Follow this link to the Tyre Safe website:

Poor tyres will not grip when driving on snow and ice. If you live in an area where snow is common it might be worth changing to winter tyres with deeper tread.

Check your screenwash

Filling up the screenwash is quick and easy to do. Being able to see ahead of you is one of the most important aspects of driving. If you are unsure, you can find out how to check and top up your screenwash here

Screen wash is available from motor retailers, garages and even some supermarkets. It will help avoid the wiper blades smearing on the screen; it has water softener in it to keep the pipes and jets clean; and it’s formulated to clear road grime and insects. It also has anti-freeze in it so won’t turn to ice in very cold weather.

Pack for the worst

At any time of the year it is advisable to have some breakdown cover to give you peace of mind when you are travelling. Keep the phone number of your provider on a piece of paper in case you have no phone signal or charge, and have some spare change for the phone box.

But, it is always best to be prepared for every eventuality by ensuring that your car is equipped with the following:

  • Demisting pad
  • Torch (wind-up so you don’t run out of battery)
  • A hi-vis vest to make you visible if you break down
  • A blanket to keep you warm
  • Some food and drink
  • Spare screen wash
  • De-icer
  • Ice scraper
  • A shovel and a square of carpet that you can use to put under your drive wheels should you get stuck in the snow.
  • Phone charger
  • Map
  • First aid kit
  • A warning triangle


Always think before you travel whether your journey is necessary – it’s not worth putting yourself in danger or risking the lives of others.

For more information checkout these resources:

ROSPA have put together a handy advice sheet that you can download and keep.

The AA have put together a leaflet which is full of advice on how to survive driving in the winter months. How to Go On Ice And Snow Leaflet download and keep now.

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