Winter driving essentials you need to carry in your car
- From warm clothing, spare boots, a road atlas and something to eat and drink
- Less than a third of drivers say they carry a shovel in their car in winter
- AA, RAC and Green Flag have all reported a record number of call-outs this week
- There are also warnings to drivers about two winter misdemeanours called ‘frosting’ and ‘tank commanding’ – find out what these terms mean below
When snow falls the UK tends to come to a standstill, much to our frustration.
Last weekend’s white wash of powder saw weather warnings, flight delays and plenty of drivers stranded on motorways and other routes – and cold temperatures meant that the snow and ice stuck around.
Even if you weren’t one of those unfortunate enough to be trapped in their cars, there’s a very good chance it could happen to you at some point when the temperatures drop and heavens open. So are you prepared?
Here is a checklist of everything you should carry in your car in case you’re caught out by snowfall and freezing conditions.
It’s a legal requirement to clear your windscreens before driving, so if you’re trapped in a snow-related jam then you’ll need to remove the ice and fresh powder before setting off again
1. Ice scraper and de-icer
You’re legally required to clear your front and rear windscreen of snow and ice before driving your car – or else face a £60 fine and three penalty points on your licence.
But they’re also essentials to keep in the car at all times during the winter months in case you do get stranded and the glass has a fresh coating of the white stuff in the time you’re at a standstill.
2. Extra screenwash
You’ve removed all the snow and ice from your windscreen but all the grit, muck and slush on the road means the glass will quickly be difficult to see out of again if you do get on the move.
Having some extra screenwash will at least guarantee that you can see clearly at all times and the fluid won’t freeze in the chilly temperatures.
The only thing worse than getting stranded in the snow in the middle of nowhere is getting stranded in the snow in the middle of nowhere in the dark.
Carrying a wind-up torch is a good option. Alternatively, carry a spare set of batteries that fit your torch in case the ones in it are dead.
Loading your vehicle with warm clothes and a blanket during the winter months will keep you warm if you’re stranded unexpectedly. If you’ve got a hot flask of tea or coffee then we imagine you’ll have many of the other provisions in this list
Are Britons taking the necessary winter driving precautions?
How prepared for snow are drivers? According to AA Tyres, just 29 per cent carry a shovel or spade during winter and half (49 per cent) carry spare warm clothing and a suitable change of clothes.
The survey of 18,547 AA members found that 65 per cent of motorists do check their tyre pressures regularly during the colder season, though just a quarter (26 per cent) make the executive decision to replace their worn tyres before the roads get slippery.
As the days get shorter, two thirds (67 per cent) of drivers take the time to check their lights are working regularly throughout the winter – although fewer think to clean them regularly (61 per cent).
Meanwhile, a third of motorists admit to risking their own safety by ignoring advice to not drive in particularly bad conditions unless it’s absolutely necessary.
4. Coat, scarf, gloves and blanket
Thinking about taking that old winter coat to the charity shop? Instead, store it in the boot of your car with a warm pair of gloves in the pocket and a scarf stuffed up one of the sleeves.
It will be a much welcome stash if you do get caught in a snowy jam and don’t have enough fuel to run the engine and heating system in the freezing conditions.
A large blanket – big enough to spread across two passengers in the back – is also recommended.
Carrying a spare pair of shoes is always a good idea – wading through snow, ice and slush will soon dampen your footwear and soaked feet is never pleasurable.
This is why carrying a durable pair of boots is essential, especially some with plenty of grip on the sole to limit slipping and sliding when exiting the vehicle.
If you have a spare pair of waterproof boots kicking around, sling them in your car’s luggage compartment now.
Carrying a shovel in the car might sound a bit daft and impractical but drivers caught on small roads where gritters won’t service might have to dig their way out
If there’s a significant downfall and you’re stuck on a smaller road then there’s every chance you might have to dig yourself out.
You probably don’t want to take up all of your available boot space with a spade, but you can get space-saving foldable shovels for £10 or less.
7. High-Vis jacket
In some countries it is a legal requirement to carry a high-visibility in the car with you, but not the UK.
That said, it will come in handy not only as an extra item of clothing in freezing conditions but also to attract the attention of other drivers if you find yourself stranded somewhere in the the dark.
Breakdown call-outs at a record high this week
Breakdown service providers Green Flag and the RAC both confirmed record-high levels of activity on Monday 11th December as drivers struggled to get on the road due to the freezing conditions.
Green Flag received 13,800 breakdown call across the country by midday after responding to no less than 49,800 requests for help from drivers over the weekend.
The RAC said it was shaping up for its ‘busiest ever week’, saying it had tallied more breakdown calls on Monday than it had done any other day for 7 years.
AA president Edmund King said its patrols were out in ‘full force’ on Monday, responding to 25,000 call-outs – the most it has received in a single day in 2017.
8. Phone charger
Carrying a road atlas might seen archaic to some, but if your phone runs out of juice and you don’t have a sat-nav, it will be your best port of call to make it to a clear route or walk to the nearest town centre
Many already carry a phone charger in the car, not just to boost the power on their device but also to link their music to the audio system in the vehicle.
It will definitely come in handy if you do get stuck in snow, as bad luck would dictate that you’ve got less than 10 per cent battery remaining on the day you happen to get stranded.
9. Road map
If you don’t have built-in sat-nav and can’t rely on your phone for directions because it has ran out of battery, having a road atlas with you will be extremely handy.
Not only will it navigate you to other routes but will also be useful if you have to leave the car on foot and locate the nearest fuel station or town centre.
|Rank||Repair / Replacements||How much more likely you are to face in the winter compared to rest of year|
|1||Wing Mirror Glass||4.3x|
|4||Alternator / Alternator Belt||1.6x /1.3x|
|Source: Analysis of ClickMechanic’s repairs database during the winter months|
10. Empty fuel can
Why would you be out looking for a fuel station with your road atlas? It might be because you’ve had your car running for so long to keep the heating on that you’ve burned through all the fuel you have.
There’s a very good chance a filling station will have fuel cans for sale, but by having your own you have the guarantee that you won’t have to walk all that way to be left empty handed.
11. Something to eat and drink
We’re not talking about driving around with a full Sunday roast in the boot gathering mold as each day passes – think non-perishables with long best-before dates, like crisps and water.
The only problem is you have to stop yourself from snacking on it when you don’t need to.
If you’re caught out by snow and stuck in the car for a prolonged period, you’ll probably drain the battery by using the heater. Keeping jump leads in the car will at least help you get back on your way if this is the case – as long as another driver is willing to let you connect to their car’s healthier battery
Are you transporting your Christmas tree legally?
New research by Enterprise found that just 7 per cent of British drivers know the rules regarding transporting Christmas trees on the road.
A survey of 2,005 adults found that 10 per cent admit they have previously transported a tree in a manner which ‘may have contravened the rules of the road’.
This includes letting the tree hang out of the boot, not being secured to the roof rack and letting the branches obscure their vision out of windows.
Are the police cracking down on poor tree transportation? According to those who said they had carried a tree in or on their car inappropriately, 26 per cent were accosted for doing so.
12. Jump leads
A flat or dead battery can creep up on you at any time, regardless of the age of your vehicle.
And in cold weather, it’s more likely to happen as you’ll be dialling up the heater to battle the sub-zero conditions.
Having a set of jump start cables or jump leads in the car will help you get going again if a friendly passerby is willing to let you hook up to their healthier battery.
13. First-aid kit
This is an all-year-round essential and there are national standards for first aid provision within motor vehicles, devised by the British Standards Institution.
A small first aid kit should include the following items:
- Sterile cleansing wipes
- Washproof plasters in assorted sizes
- Nitrile powder-free gloves
- A Revive-Aid resuscitation face shield – or similar product.
Carry two warning triangles in case your car breaks down or gets stuck. It should be placed at least 45 metres from your stranded vehicle
14. Reflective triangles
Again, carrying these in other European countries is a legal necessity but that’s not the case in the UK.
You might need to drag them out of the boot to alert other drivers or breakdown providers that you need some help.
Having two means you can place one in front of your car and one behind in the case of get stuck in snow on any road that isn’t a motorway.
The signs should be at least 45 metres – 147 feet – behind the vehicle, and it’s suggested to buy a sturdy one that won’t get blown down in blustery conditions.
Of course, if the conditions are extremely bad it is strongly recommended that you only attempt to drive if you really have to.
Cramming these items in the car boot should help make being stranded by snow and ice as comfortable as it can be.
More warnings for drivers leaving their cars running unattended to defrost…
The AA said it has seen a spike in the number of thieves targeting cars left defrosting on driveways and by the side of the road.
With temperatures dropping as low as -13 degrees overnight this week, more and more drivers are tempted to let their car do the work to clear the windscreen – but leaving themselves extremely vulnerable in the process.
The motoring body’s warning came following a tweet by the Central Motorway Police Group two week ago saying: ‘Seriously!!! That’s 6 cars stolen in last 30 mins just because people have left them unattended to defrost. Come on people, don’t do it!!”
Edmund King, president of the AA, said: ‘Keys really are the weakest link in the car security chain, and you should treat them like cash.
‘Leaving your car unattended with the engine running is just offering thieves an early Christmas present. We see cases of ‘frosting’ every year but the current extreme low temperatures may tempt more drivers to leave the car running.’
King also warned that its patrols had also seen a significant number of ‘tank commanders’ on the road – those peering out of a small section of a windscreen because the rest of it hasn’t defrosted.
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online