Winter Driving Advice | Get A Free Winter Car Check

Stay safe while driving this winter.

author image-cai
By Cai Bradley
Updated on Monday 16 November 2020

Car driving in snow

Winter is coming, and as joyful a season as it is, it also brings some serious hazards with it in the shape of ice, snow, and blustery winds.

Vehicle breakdowns are undoubtedly more common in winter and extreme weather conditions can mean that roads are dangerously unsafe at times, which is why drivers are reportedly 20% more likely to be involved in a car accident during winter months.

There are a few things you can do to minimise the risk of crashing your car in winter or being the victim of an unfortunate breakdown:

  • Find out how to drive on ice and snow

  • Get a free winter car check or give your car the once-over yourself

  • Make sure that you have the right insurance and breakdown cover in place (as well as a valid MOT certificate)

In this guide, we give you key winter driving advice to keep you safe, explain to you how to get a free car check during winter months, and outline the car insurance and breakdown cover policies that you need to stay protected against all eventualities.

Winter car safety tips

There’s no doubt that knowing how to drive in snow and on ice is hugely important, but your preparation for driving in winter begins well before you step foot in your car.

Before setting off on your journey or commute, remember to:

  • Leave the house at least 10 minutes early, giving you time to de-ice the car and drive at a safe speed
  • Take a de-icer and scraper on all journeys
  • Check that your fuel is at least a quarter full in case of a delay
  • Clear your whole windscreen before driving
  • Plan your route and stay on major roads as much as possible to avoid areas that are not gritted

How to drive on ice and snow

The best way to drive in snow and ice is, quite simply, slowly and carefully.

That’s not all there is to it, of course, as there are many other ways that you can reduce your likelihood of being involved in a car accident in winter, but we can’t stress enough how important it is to take it slow.

Here are some of our top tips for driving in snow and ice this winter:

  • Drive slowly
  • Maintain a safe distance between the vehicle in front as stopping distances are multiplied by 10 in icy conditions
  • Make gentle manoeuvres
  • Pull away slowly in second gear to avoid wheel spin
  • Leave enough room when going uphill so you can keep a constant speed and don’t need to stop
  • Slow down before going downhill, use a low gear and avoid braking (brake gently when you need to)
  • Drive in ‘winter mode’ or any other recommended setting if your automatic car has one

What to do if your car is stuck in snow

If your car gets stuck in snow, you should straighten the steering and clear the snow from underneath the wheels. Once you’ve cleared as much snow as possible, put an old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the car some extra grip and traction. If you can, get a few friends, family members, or neighbours to help you.

Despite the natural temptation, you should not floor the acceleration pedal; this often causes more harm than good.

Driving on ice and snow is never easy, but if you follow our tips, remain aware of all the risks, and stay sensible, you can lower your chances of being involved in an accident or getting stuck.

It’s important that you only drive when it is safe to do so as well, keep an eye out for any Met Office warnings and if it’s recommended that you do not drive, try to refrain from doing so for everyone’s safety.

Get a free winter car check

Did you know that you could get a free winter car check from Halfords, Kwik Fit, and many other companies in the UK?

It’s quick and easy to book a free winter car check online using their websites, all you usually have to do is enter you registration number and post code, and choose a garage near you.

The Halfords free winter check includes:

  • Headlight and break light checks
  • Wiper blade condition check
  • Battery health check
  • Windscreen chip check
  • MOT due date reminder

If you upgrade to their full vehicle check for £15, you also get:

  • Tyre depth check
  • Tyre inflation check and top up
  • Oil level check
  • Screen wash refill
  • Coolant level check

Do your own winter car check

Alternatively, or additionally, you can also do your own DIY check using our winter car checklist as guidance.

Of course, it’s safer and more thorough if it’s done by a professional from the likes of Halfords and Kwik Fit, but there are some checks that you can do at home yourself.

  • Start the engine and ask a friend or relative to check that all the light bulbs are working on the outside of the car
  • Check that the battery terminals under the bonnet are clean and secure
  • Check that you have enough fuel for the full journey (and more, to be safe)
  • Ensure that your oil level is between the minimum and maximum marks on the dipstick
  • Examine your tyre for any punctures or bulges and check the tread depth (3mm is advised during winter)
  • Replace your wiper blades if they are split or cracked
  • Check your car’s engine coolant level – we doubt a frozen engine or an overheated car is on anyone’s Christmas list this year
  • Top up your windscreen wash with a screen wash additive that works down to at least -10°C or -15°C

Car insurance during winter

As a driver on UK roads, you must have car insurance in place at all times, regardless of how often you drive (unless you have a SORN).

Car insurance will protect you against the costs associated with repairing or occasionally replacing your vehicle if it is damaged or stolen.

If you are involved in a road traffic accident, which is more likely to occur during winter, then a fully comprehensive policy will cover the costs associated with damage to your vehicle and other vehicles, as well as injuries to you and other parties.

If your car insurance is due to expire soon, or you simply want to check whether or not you’re paying too much for cover that isn’t sufficient, compare quotes from a variety of providers by tapping the button below:

The minimum level of cover you are legally required to have is third-party only insurance, so make sure that you have this in place at the very least, or you could face fines, losing your licence and possible jail time.

Red weather warnings and car insurance

While it is recommended that you refrain from driving during red weather warnings when possible, your car insurance will not automatically become invalid if you take to the road in adverse conditions.

Of course, you will not get away with driving irresponsibly, but you will not be uninsured simply for driving during a red weather warning.

Read more in our full guide: Will a Red Weather Warning Void Your Car Insurance?

Breakdown insurance for winter

Another insurance policy worth considering – especially during winter – is breakdown cover.

Car breakdown insurance is a type of policy that can be purchased as a separate, standalone policy, or as an optional extra added to your basic car insurance.

The very best breakdown cover providers in the UK usually include:

  • Roadside assistance

  • Local and national cover

  • At-home breakdown cover

  • Vehicle recovery

  • Onward travel

During the winter months, where your vehicle is far more likely to encounter problems, this cover can be particularly useful.

So, if you don’t want annual insurance, you could opt for a short-term breakdown cover policy to cover you for a few months.

Complete winter car safety checklist

To keep you safe before you take to the road during harsh weather conditions, the RAC recommends that you use the acronym FORCES as a winter car safety checklist:

  • Fuel
  • Oil
  • Rubber
  • Coolant
  • Electrics
  • Screen wash

Regularly checking your car, especially during winter, not only increases your safety on the road, but it can also help you reduce the cost of running your car as you are less likely to breakdown due to the weather.

In order to fully protect yourself, however, you should also have a valid car insurance policy (which is compulsory all-year around) and breakdown cover.

It's important to remain sensible when driving in adverse weather conditions, but remember that a red weather warning does not necessarily mean that your car insurance will become void if you drive during one.

For more information on motor insurance, car costs and money saving, be sure to check out our related guides:

cars motor insurance driving Car Insurance car accident winter driving advice

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