How to get ready for driving in severe winter weather

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Motoring Editor Sean McGreevy’s must-read advice on how to stay safe in snowy and icy conditions

1. Prepare your car before winter 

• Keep it serviced and don’t ignore warning lights. 

• Always make sure your washer bottle is full and anti-freeze is topped up 

• Check your tyres are legal – 1.6mm is the minimum but about 3mm tread depth is better particularly in inclement weather. 

• You could also put winter tyres on your car which will work best at temperatures up to 7 degrees and will give you better traction and shorter stopping distances in cold weather. You can store these yourself or your dealer will also do this for a charge. It could be seen as a luxury but if you live somewhere that suffers from lots of bad weather it could be a sound investment.

2. You don't have to go out...

If your journey is not necessary – why risk it? For anyone who has been involved in an accident they will know what a traumatic or difficult process it is recovering, getting the car fixed, dealing with insurance, etc. Why chance it if you don’t have to?

3. If you really do need to go out in snow/ice, make sure you: 

• Listen to weather and traffic reports 

• Tell people where you are going and when you hope to arrive. 

• Have a full tank of fuel 

• Charge your mobile first

• Wear or carry warm clothes and appropriate footwear in the car – in case you need to get out and go for help on foot

• Carry a torch 

• Have some food and drink.

• Have a warning triangle and a hi-vis jacket so if you break down you will be seen by other road users – you may already have these two things in the car particularly if you have driven in Europe as it’s a legal requirement there. 

• Carry a first aid kit in the car

• Have details of your breakdown company – plug their number into your phone.

• You could even keep a fold up shovel in the boot, in case you need to dig yourself out of snow/ice. 

4. Dos and don'ts for e-icing your car

DON’T Just make a letterbox sized shape in the snow/ice on your front windscreen to save time and then just drive off – it’s dangerous and illegal. 

DON’T Pour a kettle of hot water over your windscreen: it’s likely to crack if you do. Be patient and just get out of bed early and do the job properly. 

DON’T Leave the car running and then go in and have your breakfast as it may not be there when you get back – loads of people have had their car stolen in this way 

DON’T Try and put your windows down if they are frozen as they could get stuck – also don’t use too much de-icer as it can be greasy 


DO Take any snow off the roof as this will slip down onto your windscreen as you drive off or as it melts and could inhibit vision

DO Clean your headlights 

DO Put on the rear windscreen heater and if you have it front windscreen heater as that will save time 

DO Use de-icer especially around doors so you can get them open – don’t force them if they are frozen shut 

DO Use air conditioning to demist the windows if necessary.

5. Drive carefully 

1 Always put your lights on – dipped beam or whatever is appropriate for the situation 

2 Give yourself extra time – a journey could take twice as long as usual or worse 

3 Slow down and keep your distance from the vehicle in front 

4 In snow, use a higher gear and lower speed – try pulling off in second not first – you will be less likely to spin the wheels 

5 Don’t rely too much on tech. Modern cars have a lot of tech to help with traction, etc and of course 4x4 and quattro or xdrive or similar systems will give you an edge but still drive carefully and don’t take this for granted. If you have a RWD car you will struggle more in these conditions to get any traction on snow or ice. 

6 If you have an indicator on your car that starts warning you about ice, take notice.

You can stream or download Sean's podcast on safe driving in winter below

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