Come snow, ice, sleet or rain, it’s always good to be prepared. As we head into winter, IAM RoadSmart’s Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards, has put together some practical tips on which essential items you should keep in your car in the colder months to make sure you’re equipped for every eventuality:
- Keeping an ice-scraper in your car is essential in winter. Not only will it make fast work of the ice, so that you can be sure your vision is clear when you head off, a decent one with a sturdy handle will also prevent you freezing your fingers – or scratching your windows as you attempt to remove the ice with an old CD case!
- Start long journeys with a full tank of fuel. Don’t put off filling up – it’s sensible to keep your tank at least half full to prevent you getting caught short later.
- If you’ve broken down on the side of the road, the last thing you want is to be cold and unable to see your way around in the dark. So always keep a torch and set of batteries in your vehicle, along with warm clothes, a blanket and a high visibility jacket. And don’t forget food and drink to stop your energy levels from dropping – bottled water is a must, along with Kendal Mint Cake and a flask of tea if you’re from north of Rugby and born before 1975.
- You never know when you’ll need a first aid kit, so keeping one in the boot of your car is always handy for either yourself or another road user at the scene of an accident.
- The battery on your car can go flat at any time, whether you’re popping to your local fish and chip shop or heading out on your first long journey after several weeks off the road due to the lockdown. Make sure you keep a set of jump leads in your car so you can start your engine with help from another driver’s vehicle if you need to.
- With electric vehicles, take notice of the available charge and make sure you can get to the next charge point with plenty to spare – winter motoring uses many more devices such as lights, wipers and heaters, so range will be reduced..
- An item that’s often overlooked is the reflective warning triangle. This gives you extra security for a number of reasons such as breaking down in the dark. Put it out in accordance with the rule from the Highway code 274 which advises to “put a warning triangle on the road at least 45 metres (147 feet) behind your broken-down vehicle on the same side of the road, or use other permitted warning devices if you have them. Always take great care when placing or retrieving them, but never use them on motorways.” You can buy these at larger petrol stations, most car supply shops or online.
- Most of us use a satnav to travel to unfamiliar places nowadays. But what if your battery dies and you can’t find the charger for your windscreen mounted satnav, or what if it takes you the wrong way? Or you’re in an area where there is no reception? The best thing to do is to refer back to your trusty road atlas, so don’t forget to purchase an up-to-date copy every year and keep it in your car for when you need it. It will also amuse your grandchildren on long journeys as they roll their eyes at the weird world of Boomers.
- Last but not least your mobile phone and a charging cable. Switch it to silent and place it in the glove box to avoid any temptation to touch it, but it will be there ready to use when and if you need it.
Richard says: “A journey can be a pleasant experience with the right planning. But it can turn into a nightmare if circumstances change and you do not have the right tools for the job at hand. Getting stranded either in suddenly changing weather conditions or in hours-long traffic will be more bearable if you can let people know where you are and stay in relative comfort until you’re finally able to safely get to your destination.”