With temperatures plummeting, snow falling in some parts of the UK and forecast for others, it’s vital motorists are properly prepared for whatever winter throws at them.
This time of year throws up lots of seasonal hazards, ranging from iced-over windscreens to snow drifts and traffic jams but keeping a few essentials in your car can help you avoid or overcome many of these safely. Here’s a list of the key items you should make sure you have:
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Absolutely vital at this time of year to help deice your car. It’s dangerous and illegal to drive with your windows covered in snow or ice so a decent scraper makes it easier to clear the glass before you start your journey.
Hi-visibility jacket and warning triangle
These are important to have in your car at any time of year but shorter days, reduced visibility and the increased likelihood of a breakdown make it even more important that you can be seen should you need to get out of your vehicle at the roadside. A hi-vis jacket and warning triangle will help.
Winter is hard on car batteries. Low temperatures are bad for their operation and using lights, wipers and heaters more puts additional strain on them, increasing the chances of a flat battery. A set of simple jump leads is the simplest way to tackle this problem and save you from being stranded.
If you break down or get caught in a traffic jam you could find yourself sitting in your car for a prolonged period. A blanket or two will help keep you warm, especially if your engine won’t start or you’ve switched it off to save fuel.
Snacks and water
Another important staple to keep in your car in case of accident or breakdown. Traffic jams at this time of year can last hours, so some non-perishable snacks and a drink will keep your energy levels up and keep you hydrated while you wait.
If you have to leave your car for any reason - whether you’ve broken down or got stuck - you don’t want to be tramping about in the cold and wet in a pair of high heels or thin trainers. Decent walking boots or wellies will keep your feet dry and give you grip on slippy surfaces.
Mobile phones can be a lifeline at this time of year when breakdowns and accidents are more common but they’re only useful if they’re charged. If your car doesn’t have a charging facility, invest in a 12V adaptor and charging cable and keep them in your car at all times.
Another essential should you find yourself broken down or stuck in the dark. Whether you’re checking under the bonnet or just making yourself visible, a torch is invaluable. Wind-up torches mean you don’t have to worry about the batteries going flat.
You should regularly check your screenwash anyway, but at this time of year it’s easy to run out as you struggle to keep your windscreen clear of grit and other dirt. Carrying a spare bottle of pre-mixed solution means you can quickly stop and top it up while out and about, ensuring your vision isn’t impaired by dirty windows.
Although daylight hours are much shorter, the low winter sun can pose a real hazard to drivers. It’s easy to be dazzled either directly or by the sun’s reflection on a wet road, so a pair of sunglasses can help reduce this and improve your visibility while you drive.
Ready-made car kits are available. The Halfords Emergency kit is a good, reliable starter kit.