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Holding Icon Winter motoring essentials - planning and preparation

Winter motoring essentials - planning and preparation

SAS survival expert, John 'Lofty' Wiseman

One in five motorists perform no checks at all on their car in preparation for winter driving - whilst half of those that do check wait until the temperatures plunge - which could be too late.

Because winter driving is particularly demanding on cars, it is vital that a thorough vehicle check is performed before the cold weather strikes to minimise drivers' chances of being stranded in particularly unpleasant conditions.

  • Tyres - make sure your tyres are inflated correctly and that you have sufficient tread on your tyres to cope with wet and slippery conditions. A new car tyre begins life with approximately 8mm of tread and the minimum legal limit is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre. However, independent research shows that tyres with 3mm of tread have an average 25% better performance than those at 1.6mm (equivalent to an extra 8 metres stopping distance in wet conditions).
  • Battery - in winter the increased use of lights, blowers, wipers, heated seats and other electrical devices place additional demands on your car's battery and charging system. Charge your battery (particularly if you make frequent short journeys that don't replenish its charge) and consider a battery check if it appears to be struggling to cope.
  • On the level - make sure your car's oil and water are at the optimum levels and recheck them regularly. Make sure that you also have sufficient anti-freeze in your cooling system to protect the engine when temperatures drop.
  • Fuel - always keep your fuel tank topped up to make sure that you have more than sufficient fuel for your journey. Allow for traffic delays, potential detours and the need to keep warm (see section on how to sleep in your car). Running a tank right down to empty can allow deposits at the bottom into your engine causing damage.
  • Light up - ensure all front and rear lights are working and free from dirt and snow. An estimated 2.6 million cars are being driven illegally on the roads with defective lights - significantly increasing the risk of an accident.
  • Visibility - check that your screen wash reservoir is full of a good quality product rated to a low enough temperature (-5 may be fine for most of the year but consider replacing with -10 or -20 during the winter months). Also ensure that your wiper blades are in good condition and clear your screen properly.

Because almost half of motorists don't know how to perform these vital checks, Halfords Autocentres offer a winter inspection service from just £12.95 and this includes a free winter 'essentials' pack worth £10.

Survival Tip

In the military we call checking over the vehicle you are about to drive away 'first parade'. (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.