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Holding Icon How to Sleep in Your Car

How to Sleep in Your Car

SAS survival expert, John 'Lofty' Wiseman

Winter weather has forced many stranded motorists to spend the night in their car - even on a crowded snow-bound motorway. Fortunately these occurrences are rare but if you do break down or fall victim to particularly bad weather, your comfort - perhaps even survival - depends on how you react.

Assuming an alternative source of shelter isn't available, always stay in the car as it offers the best protection from rain, wind and snow.

Hopefully you have packed some emergency supplies (as outlined in the Planning & Preparation section) which will make following these basic guidelines easier but with some ingenuity even an unprepared driver can attempt most of them:

  • Run The Engine
    If your car starts and has fuel, use it for heat. Cover the bonnet so that as little heat as possible is wasted - but always make sure that the exhaust is clear. Note: DO NOT go to sleep with the engine running.
  • Switch Off
    When the engine has taken the chill off the interior, turn it off. Start it again when the temperature drops to maximise your fuel.
  • Wrap-Up
    If there's no fuel or the engine won't start, wrap up in anything you can find - spare clothing, rugs, car seat covers and even scrunched-up paper can be used to insulate you and retain body heat.
  • Create A Barrier
    Between yourself and the glass - which soaks heat from the car interior - using paper, maps, car mats, anything you can find.

If you have not had formal training in first aid, follow these tips:

  • Keep Eating
    Shivering burns calories leading to the release of energy so replace them by taking warm drinks and eating high calorie foods such as chocolate or nuts (though any spare sugary food in the glovebox will do).
  • Stay Together
    If you have passengers share body heat by cosying-up under a blanket to maximise heat use and minimise losses.

Survival Tip

When I was stationed in the Norway, if we broke down the advice was to get out of the vehicle; as the temperature inside a metal armoured truck is actually several degrees lower than outside. However, in the UK stay inside your car which is much better insulated. (Lofty)

Winter Survival Guide

Download the complete guide

Winter Survival Guide cover


Amid falling temperatures and rising levels of concern among drivers, Halfords Autocentres has worked with renowned survival expert, former SAS Sergeant Major and author of the best-selling SAS Survival Handbook John 'Lofty' Wiseman to create the ultimate Motoring Survival Guide.

Download the complete guide or read on for more winter survival advice.