Driving in winter presents the hazards of snow and ice, which can catch out even the most experienced drivers. Having breakdown cover alone isn’t enough and motorists should keep extra kit in their car for the season.
I learnt the hard-way: One Christmas Eve, my car broke down and the AA patrol was understandably overstretched. For safety, I had to leave the car, which meant 2 hours of shivering on the hard shoulder embankment.
It might not even be your car that breaks down. When snow brought the M6 to a standstill in Janaury 2013, hundreds of motorists were forced to spend the night in their cars.
I’ve extolled the virtues of fitting winter tyres previously here. This list concerns what to keep in the car. I would recommend some of these items stay in your car year round, as a matter of course.
Clear all your windows before you set off. Don’t make your journey even more hazardous by limiting your visibility.
Clear the ice around the windscreen wipers before you switch them on. Don’t be that one person furiously scraping with their bank card.
Changing a flat tyre can be challenging at the best of times, when your hands are freezing cold it’s torturous. A can of tyre weld can get you home or to the garage.
If you need to clear snow around the wheels, you do not want to use your hands.
Snow Socks or Chains
Snow Socks are easier and quicker to fit than chains. Both can help you get unstuck. It’s wise to practice fitting them at home first.
If you have to walk home or change a tyre in the dark, a heavy duty torch will be a lot more useful than your mobile phone’s LED.
If a recovery vehicle is some distance away, a friend or family member might be able to assist. Make sure you attach it to the correct tow eyes for each vehicle.
The cold can dramatically affect battery life and performance. The engine oil’s viscosity increases as temperature lowers, so more energy is required to crank the engine. With the help of another car, jump leads can get you started.
Drinks and Snacks
Keeping some fluids and travel snacks in the glovebox is always a good idea. Just remember to replace them after you inevitably eat them in a non-emergency. If you’re expecting the worse out, then take a thermos of tea too.
For something we’re so reliant on, smartphone batteries don’t last very long.
If visibility is low or you’ve broken down on a blind bend, warning other motorists can prevent a further accident. On a dual carriageway, you should place the triangle 45 metres behind your car.
If you have to flag down other motorists or walk on the road to get assistance, then stay as safe as possible by being visible.
A car soon gets cold without the engine running and if you have to brave the elements in a remote location, help could be some time away. Have some spare warm clothes for all your passengers.
A picnic blanket is useful year round for protecting your interior from children and pets. If you’re stuck in a blizzard, you won’t even mind the dog hair and boiled sweets stuck to it.
First Aid Kit
Always helpful for the inevitable cuts and scrapes children encounter. If the worst happens, being able to dress a wound until help arrives can make a difference. Make sure you familiarise yourself with its contents and their use.