Winter Driving Tips

Winter is on its way, and with it comes a whole new set of rules behind the wheel.

It’s not just the weather that makes winter driving a bit tricky, but the longer hours of darkness, especially in rural areas with no street lights or phone signal. The key is to be well prepared, and do your research on the correct way to deal with any incidents. And luckily, here at, we’ve decided to do the work for you (we’re nice like that).

We’ve compiled our top tips for driving in challenging winter circumstances. Hopefully, it’ll help you feel clued up should you be unlucky enough to have any issues.

Our founder, Nick Zapolski, believes forewarned is forearmed! “It’s really important to get yourself prepared for winter motoring, as half the battle is being ready. Breaking down in summer is a lot different to breaking down in the freezing cold weather, on an unlit road. Being aware and prepped for winter driving will give you some assurances before you make any journey, and help keep you and your family safe.”

So here they are – read on to keep yourself safe this winter.

Prepare your car for winter

It’s essential that your car is adequately prepared for winter, and that includes putting certain items inside it for emergencies. A warning triangle, water, high vis clothing, warm clothing, torch, phone charger, and blanket are all important items to keep in your vehicle over winter.

Get your car checked over and consider winter tyres if your location requires it. We have more tips here for Winter Car Safety Checklist.

What do to if you break down on a dark unlit road

Breaking down anytime can be a pretty hairy situation, but it’s even more so on a dark unlit road in winter. Should this happen to you, the very first thing you need to do is alert other drivers to your issue, using your hazard lights. Once your hazards are on, and it’s safe to do so, pull over in the most suitable place, avoiding ditches, long grass or soft verges, as you may get stuck.

Once you’re safely stopped, place a warning triangle 45 metres behind your car and put on some high visibility clothing. If your vehicle is on the road, ensure you remain outside of the vehicle and away from the road.

Call breakdown or another professional who can help. If you have no phone signal, wait for another car and flag them down.

Breaking down on a motorway

If you’re having car trouble on the motorway, and are in an outside lane, you should indicate left and move over to the left hand lane. Once in the left hand lane you should move onto the hard shoulder and put your hazard lights on.

Exit your vehicle from the left hand side of the car and remain behind the safety barrier. Call national highways on 0300 123 5000, then a breakdown provider and anyone else that needs to know.

If you don’t have breakdown cover, it may be better to sign up on the day and pay a higher fee, as it is not advisable to tow a car on the motorway due to high speeds of other vehicles.

What to do if your brakes fail

There’s few scarier things to experience as a driver than a brake failure. But try your best not to panic! Put your hazards on immediately and slow your vehicle, using your gears. Once you’ve reached a slow enough speed, use the handbrake to come to a complete stop. Ensure you’re steering your car to a suitable stopping place.

In the worst case scenario, where you’re unable to bring the vehicle to a stop using your gears or brakes, you’ll have to use something to slow you down, such as the kerb or a safety barrier. It may cause some damage to your vehicle, but it’s the safest option.

Driving on snowy or icy roads

Ideally, don’t travel in snowy/icy conditions. But if it’s unavoidable, the best tip is to take it steady. Ensure you leave enough time for your journey, and make sure your car is fully prepared. You may also want to consider changing to winter tyres or having some snow chains in your car.

It’s also a great idea to let someone know where you’re heading and what your rough arrival time is, so they can check on your safety. Double check that you have your safety items in your car, particularly de-icer, an ice scraper, warm clothes, food, and water in case you break down.

Once you head out onto the road, drive at a slower speed, in a higher gear, and keep a safe distance from other vehicles, as the braking distance in snow or ice is much further. Try to avoid harsh braking or too much acceleration.

Be aware of black ice, which is often impossible to see apart from a shine on the road surface. If you do hit any ice, keep the steering wheel straight, maintain your speed, and do not hit the brakes.

Flooded roads and heavy rain

If extremely heavy rain is forecast, which is likely to cause flooding, avoid travelling. Flash floods can happen very quickly and without warning. If you do get caught out in heavy rain on the road, the first thing you should do is turn your headlights on and drive to higher ground. You should also leave twice as much stopping distance as normal between the vehicle in front of you.

Try to avoid standing water if you can, however it is passable if care is taken. If the water is more than 10cm (4 inches) deep, then don’t drive into it. If it’s less than 10cm, drive slowly and in first gear to ensure high revs. Once you get through the water, test your brakes immediately.

Flat tyre/tyre blowout

If you experience a puncture, it’s not safe to drive and it could cause further damage to your car. Calmly pull over in a safe place and put your hazard lights on. A flat tyre can be easily resolved, so make sure you’re carrying a spare or repair kit.

A blow out can be a scary experience, especially as our initial instinct to brake can make it worse. Braking can cause the vehicle to spin, so instead hold the steering wheel firmly and allow the car to slow down itself.

Once you have slowed, try to find a safe place to stop and again, put your hazard lights on.

Ensure you know how to change your tyre and it’s safe to do so. If you’re unsure how to change a tyre, or it’s unsafe to do so, call a breakdown provider.

Headlights stop working

Not the ideal situation on a cold dark evening! If your headlights stop working, don’t stop suddenly, but instead ensure you pull over safely as soon as you can. Use other lights on your vehicle such as hazards, side lights, or even the interior light to ensure visibility.

Once pulled over, try to identify the cause of the problem. If the problem isn’t able to be fixed, call your breakdown provider. If you don’t have any cover, and it’s safe to do so, park your car in a safe place off the road, lock it and return to the vehicle in daylight to fix the issue, or get it towed to the nearest garage.

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