High winds, heavy rain, snow and ice can turn a regular commute or road trip into a tricky undertaking. This can lead to accidents or breakdowns, which means preparation is absolutely key before you take to the road.

To help you stay safe this winter, we’ve compiled a list of our team’s top driving tips.

Winter driving: preparation is key

Before you set out on a journey, you need to make sure your car is in tip-top condition. This can reduce your risk of a breakdown and give your car the best grip and visibility in dodgy weather.

It’s therefore a good idea to do the following:

  • Get your car serviced: Make sure your car has had a service recently. You can check your car’s manual to find out how often a service should be carried out and whether yours is overdue. A service can reveal and correct problems before they bring your car to an abrupt halt, so it’s well worth considering.
  • Check your tyre tread: Treads that are wearing out or damaged can reduce your grip on the road. Make sure each tyre has at least 1.6mm of tread depth for regular winter driving and a tread of at least 3mm if you will be driving in snow.
  • Fuel: Journeys in bad weather can take longer due to congestion, accidents and road closures. Making sure you have plenty of fuel in the tank is a good way to avoid a panic on the road.
  • Top-up your screenwash: Winter roads are pretty grimy, which means you’ll need to use more screenwash to maintain visibility through your windscreen. To ensure it won’t freeze if the temperature really dips, opt for one that can withstand temperatures as low as -15 degrees Celsius. 
  • Check your lights: Bad weather can make it hard to see and be seen. Make sure your lights are clean and working. This includes your licence plate light. If visibility is worsening, switch on your dipped headlights rather than relying on your normal running lights. This is because this automatic system often doesn’t turn on your rear lights.
  • Make sure you have enough oil: The RAC has warned that many people stranded in a breakdown have low oil levels. Regularly check that your oil hasn’t fallen below the minimum level and top it up as necessary. 
  • Take a look at your coolant: Coolant helps to prevent your engine from overheating, but it also helps to protect it against very low temperatures. It’s therefore a good idea to make sure that you have enough.
  • Check the location of your locking wheel nut key: These keys are used to tighten or take off wheel nuts. If you need to change your tyre, you or a mechanic will need these keys. If you’re unsure where they are, check your glove compartment or the storage areas in the floor of your boot. 

Setting out on your winter journey

Waking up on a bitterly cold day with ice or even snow on the ground means that you’ll need to take a little longer to get your car ready for a drive. If the weather is extreme, it may be better to decide not to travel at all.

To keep yourself as safe as possible, make sure you completely de-mist and de-ice your car before you set off. Scrapers and de-icers can help you to do this effectively. It’s best to avoid pouring boiling water over your windscreen as this could lead to cracks if you already have damage or a small chip.

Make sure you clear and de-ice all of your windows and lights before you set off, including your side windows. It’s important that you’re able to see clearly, so clearing your windscreen alone won’t cut it.

Preparation includes removing all the snow off the roof of your car too. It isn’t a legal requirement, but if the snow slips down and obscures your view, or blows off and flies into the path of another car, you could be penalised.

Finally, check that your mobile phone is fully charged and pack a few essentials, just in case. This should include food and water, warm blankets and your phone charger. A shovel and old carpet or cardboard can be helpful too. If you get stuck in the snow, you can use them to dig out your car and create more traction on the road surface.

Driving in winter weather

Ice and snow

When it comes to driving in snow or on icy roads, slow and steady is the key. It’s also important to maintain a good distance between you and the car in front. This is because it will take you longer to brake on wet or icy roads. For instance, icy conditions can increase your braking distance by 10 times.

Smooth driving is a must. Accelerate, brake, change gear and steer as smoothly and steadily as possible. This will help to avoid a skid, but if your car does slide, steer in the direction you’re skidding and do not brake hard. 

For instance, if you skid to the left, steer to the left until you regain control.

You can also switch on your car’s ‘snow’ or ‘ice’ mode if it has one built into its system. This will give you optimal driving performance for these conditions. Otherwise, use a higher gear with lower revs to drive. 

When starting to drive off in snow, it’s best to go into second gear to give you more traction. As you approach a turn, brake before you begin to steer. This will again help to prevent a slide. 

Hills can be daunting in the snow. Leave plenty of room and use a low gear to go down. This will help you to control your speed without touching the brakes. To go up, maintain a steady speed and try not to change gear.

If you can, stick to main roads if it’s snowy or icy. Main roads are more likely to be gritted. On a non-gritted road, try not to drive in the tracks of previous vehicles as the snow will be more compressed and slippery.

Watch out for black ice too. It can be very difficult to spot, but try to look out for road surfaces that look shiny or wet on a cold day, particularly on quiet or shaded stretches of road. If you hit black ice, keep your steering wheel straight and maintain your speed. To slow yourself down, change down gears. Try to avoid touching your brakes as you may then go into a skid.

Strong winds

If the wind really picks up, keep your speed down and maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel with both hands. If possible, try to avoid open roads where the wind may be stronger. However, be aware that side roads can also be tricky as they can create wind tunnels or be exposed to side winds.


Flooding is a common problem in winter. If you come across a flooded area, see if there is an alternative route. If there isn’t, you’ll need to assess whether you can safely drive across by attempting to gauge the depth and checking for any debris, including fallen power lines. 

If you judge it safe to cross, aim for the middle of the road as this is often the highest point and will therefore be the shallowest. Don’t follow another car in, or cross at the same time as another vehicle heading the opposite way. Other vehicles can create waves that can make it even more difficult for you to cross.


If a fog drifts in, cut your speed if it is safe to do so. Turn on your headlights, and if your visibility dips to below 100 metres, turn on your fog lights too. 

Talk to us about Breakdown Cover

In winter, breakdowns can be more common due to the bad weather. With the right Breakdown Cover in place, you can get help if you get stuck at home or on the road. This can give you some much-needed peace of mind.

To find out more about our Breakdown Cover, head over to our dedicated webpage or give our friendly team a call on 0800 917 2274.