The 2020/21 Survival Guide For Driving In Winter

16 Dec 2020

Read our ultimate survival guide for driving this winter here which features the essentials, top tips and the burning questions that you might have.

After such a hectic year, we are lucky enough to get the all clear to spend Christmas with our families which means you might be finding yourself unexpectedly needing to travel this winter. However, the idea of driving in winter is not to everyone’s taste and can actually require a lot more planning and preparation than you think.

Especially during the holiday season, you are much more likely to find yourself stuck in delays and the joys of icy and snowy weather! So, we have put together the ultimate survival guide for driving this winter which features the essentials, top tips and the burning questions that you might have.

Winter Driving Kit Essentials 

To kick off our survival guide for driving in winter, you will want to consider some driving essentials which will sort you out in no time during an emergency when on the road.

1. High-Visibility Jacket 

Other than the fact there are already less daylight hours during winter, the additional dangerous weather conditions caused by snow, ice, sleet and fog makes visibility almost non-existent when driving in winter. So, one of our top essentials is a high-visibility jacket so you can be seen much clearer if you were to stand outside your car.
If you are planning to drive abroad this winter for work or to visit family during the holiday period, some countries actually make it a legal requirement to have a high-visibility jacket at hand when travelling. For more information, you can check out our Ultimate Checklist For Driving In Europe here which gives you more information on the different legal requirements when driving abroad.

2. Shovel

Leading on from the talk about bad weather conditions when driving in winter, another essential for your winter driving kit has to be a shovel. We might not get tonnes of snow in the UK, but we are definitely prone to unpredictable weather conditions, so a shovel is ideal for when needing to dig your car wheels out of snow.
However, if you find the winter weather conditions are so bad that you might need to shovel yourself out, maybe consider whether your journey is essential or not!

3. Jump Leads

Next on our list of winter driving kit essentials are trusty jump leads. Especially when driving in winter, jump leads are essential as cold weather conditions can affect vehicle batteries even more than usual. As well as the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has probably meant your vehicle has spent a lot more time sat in the driveway not being driven than normal.
Jump leads might require another driver to help get you going, but as long as you can supply the jump leads for them, you should be good to go again in no time. 

4. Warm & Waterproof Clothing

One of our next winter driving kit essentials is something you might not think about when driving in a dry, warm car. However, if you end up breaking down when driving in the winter, you will have to leave your car and enter the cold, so we would always recommend bringing some extra layers that are warm and waterproof.

5. Protective Footwear

As well as the warm and waterproof clothing, we also recommend you wear some protective footwear that will allow you to walk to safety if you break down on a rocky country lane or even a motorway in the winter weather.

6. Warning Triangles

Warning triangles are another winter driving kit essential that will help make both you and your vehicle more visible in the winter weather conditions. Warning triangles are what will caution other drivers ahead about your broken down vehicle and allow them to slow down safely and in plenty of time.
Just like a high-visibility jacket, warning triangles are actually a legal requirement in some countries. So, if you are planning on driving abroad this winter for work or Christmas, find out here which countries legally require you to travel with warning triangles.

7. First Aid Kit

Another legal requirement when driving abroad in some countries is to have a first aid kit at hand. We agree that this is crucial to have at hand at all times when driving, especially when driving in winter conditions. 

8. Ice Scraper & De-icer

If you are planning on driving somewhere this winter and staying overnight, you might not be getting back in your car in the same condition as it was in when you left it. Your car could be iced or snowed over, so we recommend you carry some de-icer and an ice scraper when driving in winter to avoid the dangers of low visibility through your windows. 

9. Mobile Phone & Portable Phone Charger

As well as its handy use of Google Maps, having a mobile phone and a portable phone charger at hand is always necessary for if you need to call emergency services or a family member when driving. This is especially important when driving in winter as there is likely to be more diversions and more accidents caused by dangerous weather conditions.

10. Food & Drink

Last but not least, a crucial winter driving kit essential is food and drink because you never know how long you are going to be waiting at a breakdown! You might want to consider a flask of hot drink too for if you are stuck outside your vehicle.

Top Tips For Driving In Winter

Clear Your Vehicle Of Snow & Ice

As mentioned in our winter driving kit essentials, we recommend you carry an ice scraper and some de-icer with you in your vehicle. Then, the first thing you should do before setting off when driving in winter is to clear your vehicle of snow and ice, especially all the windows. Even if you don’t feel like you use the side windows, winter weather conditions can make it extra difficult to see, so you will need all the visibility you can get.

Check Your Tyres Are Winter-Friendly

Your tyres should be fully inflated and your tyre tread should be above 4mm to ensure you have a safe amount of traction and grip when driving in winter conditions. Some countries even require you change your vehicle’s tyres before driving in winter, so if you are planning on driving abroad this Christmas, ensure you have checked whether changing your vehicle’s tyres to winter tyres is mandatory or not.

Precondition Your Car Battery

For the EV drivers amongst us, you might find that preconditioning your car battery before you drive in winter conditions will help improve the range in cold weather as winter conditions are not ideal for car batteries. We recommend that you see if your EV has a preconditioning feature and make use of it during driving in winter.

Reduce Your Driving Speed

Driving in winter weather conditions means safety first, so we always recommend that you reduce the speed you drive to a safer, more distanced speed. However, driving too slow can be just as dangerous as driving too fast, so ensure your speed is safe for all drivers.

Keep Your Fuel Topped Up

Lastly, we suggest that you top up your fuel to at least half a tank before driving in winter conditions. This is always a crucial tip, but it’s especially important in winter as more congestion and colder weather conditions could mean more time spent with the car heating on in traffic jams.

Let Others Know Your Travel Plans

Whether driving long distance or not, it’s a wise idea to let others know your travel plans. This is so if anything happens along the way, they will know to raise an alarm and offer any other help they can immediately.

What If I Break Down When Driving In Winter?

We are now going to answer a few common questions that you might be wondering when driving in winter. So, what if you break down? Will it be any different to breaking down in other seasons? Well, when it comes to the recovery process, breaking down in the warmer months is in fact, no different to if you break down in winter. 
The only real difference is that it might be more likely to break down in winter. For example, car batteries are much more sensitive to winter weather conditions and dangerous weather means more accidents and delays.

What Should I Do If I Break Down In Winter?

You might be wondering what you would do if you were to break down when driving in winter. The main priority is keeping you and others safe, so ensure that you and all passengers are free from collision and move away from the broken down vehicle and into a safe place.
This is also when your high-visibility jackets and warning triangles come in handy. You should place the warning triangles about 150 feet (45 metres) behind the broken down vehicle unless you are on the hard shoulder of a motorway because this could cause even more danger.
Next, you should call a roadside assistance company, such as the AA or the RAC who are available for assistance 24/7, even throughout the Christmas period.

What If I Run Out Of Fuel When Driving In Winter?

If you are driving throughout the UK during winter, then you should have no problem when needing to fill up your car with fuel over the festive period. This is because the majority of petrol stations will be operating at their normal hours. 
However, if you do find yourself in the situation where you have run out of fuel, you must consider safety first. This could be by moving your car in neutral to a safer place than where you broke down as it could be causing danger to other drivers. If it’s too dangerous to move, then you should put your hazard lights on and if safe to do so, make use of your warning triangles behind your vehicle.
If you are lucky enough to get a signal on your mobile phone, you could locate the nearest petrol station to walk to and fill up a petrol can of fuel. However, only consider this if you have all the correct winter essentials and if only if your car is safe to leave unattended.
If you are unable to fill up your car, then the last resort should be to call a roadside assistance company.

What Happens If I Crash My Car When Driving In Winter?

Even if you have all the winter driving kit essentials fitted and in your car, this doesn’t mean you are free from all accidents. So, if you do crash your car when driving in winter, again, ensuring you and your passengers are safe is the main priority. So, moving everyone into a safer place away from the crashed vehicle is the first step. 
You should also call the emergency services if a passenger is hurt. However, if a passenger is severely injured, it might be better to wait until the emergency services arrive rather than moving the passenger yourself in order to avoid causing further damage.

Do I Get Car Recovery When Driving In Winter? 

If you are driving your own car in winter, your car insurance should cover roadside assistance which can be claimed back. However, we recommend that you call and check this with your insurance provider before being picked up by the road assistance company. This is because your insurance provider might have a partner roadside assistance company that you will be better off using.

Where Can I Find a Vehicle For Driving In Winter?

Are you planning on driving this winter, but don’t think your vehicle is suitable for winter conditions? Well, at Cars2Buy we offer a wide range of leasing or buying deals for cars and vans and we will compare them to ensure you are receiving the best deal on the market. Our leasing and buying deals are all sourced from specific car dealers, but also independent car brokers, so we can assure you that you won’t miss a deal.
Our cars ideal for winter weather conditions include the Land Rover Discovery Sport SUV and the Suzuki Swift Hatchback. If you are looking to buy or lease a van for winter weather, we have top deals for the likes of the Ford Transit L2 and the Mercedes-Benz Vito L1
Alternatively, if you want more information on any of our cars and van deals for winter driving, don’t hesitate to contact us here to speak to one of our vehicle dealing experts.