Driving in winter

Driving in winter can be testing for all drivers and staying safe in these conditions requires both care and preparation. When the temperature drops below 7C, regular tyres will start to harden, reducing their traction and the car’s manoeuverability. Low temperatures also mean rain, ice, snow and slush, all of which can result in challenging road conditions between November and March, months when daylight hours are reduced.

During these winter months drivers are five times more likely to be involved in an accident as a result of skidding than at other times of the year. These winter months also account for nearly 7,000 more accidents on UK roads than the rest of the year.

When it comes to staying safe whilst driving in winter it is important to remember that the only contact your vehicle has with the road is from its tyres. The AA recommends that all tyres have at least 3mm of tread for winter driving, and certainly no less than 2mm. This tread depth is vital in terms of grip on dry, wet and slippery roads.

There are a number of things you can do to help prepare your vehicle for driving in winter, as per the checklist below. However, the first thing we would recommend is having a set of winter tyres fitted to your vehicle. Winter tyres have higher silica content in the tread, which prevents the tyre hardening at lower temperatures, thus giving better grip in the cold and wet conditions that occur between November and March. For more information on the safety benefits of winter tyres click here.


Preparing your vehicle for driving in winter

Ensuring your vehicle is well-maintained is vitally important throughout the winter. For example, worn tyres won’t hold the road in wet conditions as well as tyres with deep tread.

  • Book your car in for a winter service in early November to ensure it is in good working order
  • Check your tyres for signs of damage such as bulges, cracks and embedded objects
  • Make sure your tread depth is above the legal minimum of 1.6mm. To help improve safety we recommend a minimum of 3mm
  • Invest in a set of winter tyres. These will give you increased traction and safety as soon as the temperature dips below 7C
  • Check all your tyres including the spare are set to the correct pressure. Over- or under-inflated tyres will affect handling. There is a common misconception that reducing tyre pressure can help when driving in winter: in fact this will reduce stability
  • Make sure all lights are working correctly and that the windscreen wipers are in good condition
  • Ensure your coolant levels are topped up with a 50:50 ratio of antifreeze to water to protect the engine against sub-zero temperatures
  • Check your oil regularly and top up when necessary
  • Ensure screen wash levels are topped up and that you are using a screen wash with a freezing point below -10C

We recommend you keep the following items in your vehicle throughout the winter:

  • Ice scraper
  • De-icer
  • Torch and spare batteries
  • Warm clothes
  • Waterproof boots
  • Blankets
  • First aid kit
  • Small amount of food
  • Jump start cables
  • Shovel
  • Reflective warning sign
  • Map
  • Sunglasses
  • Mobile phone charger

Tips for driving in winter

  • If the weather is particularly harsh avoid travelling unless absolutely necessary
  • If you do have to travel, make sure you plan your journey to include major roads and pack sufficient items to get you out of trouble should you get stuck
  • Before setting off make sure you clear all snow from your vehicle’s windows, lights and roof. This snow can come loose and be dangerous to both yourself and other road users
  • When driving on ice and snow use slow movements and avoid using the brakes
  • When braking allow your speed to fall naturally and use the brake pedal gently. If you start to skid ease off the accelerator and avoid braking suddenly
  • When driving uphill avoid having to stop halfway up by leaving a long gap between you and the vehicle in front. Keep your speed consistent and choose the most suitable gear well in advance to avoid having to change down on the hill
  • When driving downhill reduce your speed before you get to the hill and use a low gear. Try to avoid using the brakes and leave as much room as possible between the you and the car in front
  • If you get stuck in the snow, straighten the steering wheel and clear packed snow from the wheels. Put an old rug or something similar in front of the wheels to give the tyres traction. Once the vehicle is moving try not to stop until you are on safer ground
  • If you do get stuck in the snow don’t leave your vehicle unless safety is nearby

For more information on the technology behind the benefits of winter tyres click here or call the national sales team on 0800 028 9000 for advice on choosing the best winter tyres for your vehicle. Alternatively you can buy winter tyres online using the search box above.