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Your Complete Winter Driving Checklist

Winter Driving Tips

You should never underestimate the dangers and hazards that you face every time you turn your ignition on and slip the gearstick into first. There are many things that need to be considered, from your vehicle – including maintenance and upkeep – to other drivers and especially road conditions.

During the winter, driving is more hazardous than any other time of the year. This is largely due to the fact that:

  • It’s dark so visibility is limited and broken light bulbs can be extremely dangerous
  • It’s cold and wet causing issues with both your vehicle and the road 
  • Risk of drunk driving is at its highest – more arrests than any other time of year
  • Chances of ice or flooding, causing red weather warnings that can invalidate your insurance

For this reason, you need to winter proof your car and know what to do in a range of winter driving conditions.

Winter Driving Tips

Not to sound negative, but preparing for the worst will mean that you’ll be fine in most situations. When the nights close in and the temperature drops you should make sure that your vehicle is in the perfect running condition.

Check out our complete winter car checks here. This will walk you through your vehicle, ensuring that your car is well equipped for handling the changes that this time of year throws at it. Next to changing your driving style, keeping your car in tip top condition is the best way to stay safe when winter driver.

In addition to the checks above, it may also be worth investing in winter tyres – this is especially true if you have to drive in snow. Unlike summer or ‘all season’ tyres, winter tyres use a rubber compound with high silica content and a specifically designed tread pattern to allow for better handling in low friction situations like snow and ice. Not only that, but these tyres retain their flexibility in low temperatures which means that the tyre won’t crack or freeze when the thermometer shows minus numbers.


Not sure if you have a winter tyre fitted? The sidewall of a tyre that is built for winter driving will have a snowflake or a snow-topped mountain on it. If they don’t have these logos then you should search the make and model of the tyre to ensure that they are designed for the type of driving you’re doing.

Before you go anywhere, it is good practice to ensure that you have plenty of fuel to get to your destination. This is good practice with basic driving, but it is especially important in the winter as roads and petrol stations can be shut and you may have to take diversions – there’s nothing worse than running out of petrol when it’s freezing outside. 

Preparing a Winter Driving Kit

Make sure that you have some essentials in your vehicle, in the case of an emergency or a breakdown. If you’re wondering what the most common winter breakdown causes are then check out our post on cold weather car problems and how to prevent them.


Putting together a winter driving kit is a great idea as it means that if you do get stranded then you have all the tools you need to get to safety or help safety get to you! Here is a quick checklist of the things you should have in your car:

  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • Torch – ideally a wind up one, otherwise carry spare batteries too
  • Warm jackets and blankets
  • Walking boots
  • First aid kit
  • Extra-long jump start cables – know how to use them!
  • Non-perishable food, like granola bars
  • Drinking water
  • Shovel and snow strip (or carpet remnants)
  • Salt or sand to clear snow and ice
  • Reflective warning sign
  • Map
  • Mobile phone charger – fully charged power packs are more reliable at this time of year than car batteries
  • Sunglasses
  • Breakdown membership card

While this may sound like a lot of things to pack into your car, you’d be surprised by how little room the majority of these items take up. Not only that, if you do have a break down or are stranded by the weather then you’ll be extremely grateful that they’re in your car.

If you’re on any medication then it is a good idea to carry this with you when driving in adverse weather.

Driving in Snow Advice

Unless your vehicle is equipped with snow tyres and you feel confident driving in the snow, avoid unnecessary journeys. However, we appreciate that this is not always possible which is why it is a good idea to know how to drive in snow.


Here is a quick guide to give you a basic understanding of how to drive in the snow. In addition to everything included in that article, you may also wish to take the following points into consideration:

  • Wear comfortable shoes, you need good pedal control when driving in the snow, so chunky, snow-covered boots aren’t ideal.
  • Make sure that your windscreen is properly cleared, your screen wash isn’t frozen and your wipers haven’t iced over. If there is snow on your roof then remove this so that it doesn’t obscure your vision by falling onto the windscreen.
  • Always drive with your headlights on as this can help to increase the visibility of your vehicle.
  • Leave plenty of time to get to your destination, driving in the snow is much slower than other weather conditions so take it slow and arrive there safely.
  • From a stand still it’s best to pull away in second gear – this helps to avoid wheel spin and slowly brings the car up to speed.
  • Hills – try to avoid stopping when going uphill, keep at a constant, steady speed in a gear suitable to the speed. When pointing downhill, keep in a low gear and try to avoid using the brakes as this can cause the vehicle to enter a skid.
  • If you do get stuck, straighten your steering and try to clear the snow away from the wheels. If you have carpets or snow strips in your winter driving kit then place these under the tyres and slowly pull away.

Driving on ice is different to driving on snow, in that you tend to not actually drive on ice but rather hit it unexpectedly. You should try to predict where ice may be – typically you can see it in sunlight as it can reflect the light and highlight the ice. If your vehicle is equipped with 4 wheel drive then it is a good idea to put it into 4Hi for your journey.

Extra Winter Driving Precautions

 Make sure that you have breakdown cover, this is very important as it can be the difference between leaving your car stranded in the snow and being rescued. You hopefully won’t need this service, but it is better to have the added protection and not need it than need it and not have it.


Having a good pair of winter driving gloves is also a great idea. The steering wheel can get very cold, making it almost painful to touch – but with winter driving gloves you can maintain a firm grip on the wheel with no discomfort. Here are a few things to look for:

  • Grippy palm – leather or rubber/silicon palms maximise steering wheel grip
  • Wool/ Fur lining – keep your fingers nice and toasty
  • Waterproof – when scraping the windscreen or shovelling snow
  • Breathable – you don’t want your hands to overheat when driving

You don’t have to buy specific driving gloves, instead you could use cycling, horse riding or even thin work gloves when you’re behind the wheel. These all offer good grip without being too bulky or awkward as you may find with other winter gloves.

Try to park your vehicle in a garage or undercover wherever possible, however if this is something that you’re not able to do then you should take precautions to stop the car from freezing over. Here are some of our top tips to protect your car this winter.


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