Winter driving tips: checking your car before you set off

Before you set off to drive in bad weather, it’s important to think about how the conditions will affect the roads and the way your car behaves. Here, the IAM’s Rebecca Ashton explains what you need to think about before setting off.

Rebecca Ashton from the Institute of Advanced Motorists offers advice on preparing your car before driving in winter

When driving in wintery conditions, visibility is obviously key, so you need to make sure your windscreen, windows and mirrors are all free from grit and dust.

Your wipers need to be in good working order so you’re able to clean your windscreen effectively. And it’s important to make sure you’ve added a good winter additive to your screenwash reservoir, to stop your screenwash from freezing, and to allow you to clean your windscreen properly.

Make sure your bonnet and roof are clear from snow, for your own safety and for the safety of other road users. It can be extremely dangerous if snow blows off your roof when you’re driving along, so be aware.

Tyres are important. The legal limit for tread is 1.6 mm, but at the IAM we recommend having at least 3mm tread depth to help disperse water on the road. If you’re driving in really wintery conditions, consider using snow chains or snow socks. Remember that these need to be placed on the driving wheels –and be sure to remove them when you no longer need them on the car.

Before you set off, plan your journey carefully. Consider areas that are going to be exposed to the elements, and perhaps prone to flooding. Keep up-to-date with local weather, and make sure you keep your car clean. The salt used to de-ice roads can cause corrosion to your car over time, so it’s worth making a point of cleaning it regularly throughout the winter months.

Some things to take with you: a hi-vis vest to make you visible if you break down; a blanket to keep you warm; some food and a flask of hot tea or coffee. Take a torch a first aid kit, a warning triangle, some jump leads and perhaps a spade if it’s going to be snowy.

The most important thing to take is a charged mobile phone, with the phone number of your breakdown provider stored in it so you can always call for help.

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Images: iStock, Adam Gasson, Getty