Driving this winter? Save yourself the worry (and, perhaps, money)

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It’s the same old story: you’re getting to Christmas and you need all the money you can get for gifts and celebrations, not to mention the ill-timed birthdays and social events you’re expected to attend. The last thing you need is car failure. As a lifeline for many, personal transport isn’t exactly compatible with winter conditions. That’s why we want to help you avoid those possible tumbles, and we’ve got some tips to stop you from missing work – or, in the worst cases, damage your car.

Pack an emergency kit.

RoSPA – the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents – recommends you take a close look at what you have available to you if you break down. Winter only heightens the possibility that it’ll be a bad time for drivers, and it asks all drivers to “take a moment to imagine yourself stranded in your car overnight, due to a snow storm or floods”.

Among other things, it recommends you take a tow rope, shovel, wellies, hazard warning triangle, de-icer, first aid kit, torch, blanket, clothing and emergency rations. It could save you an expensive recovery – or a hotel booking at last minute.

Keep an eye on tyres (and your spare).

Cold conditions can have a nasty effect on tyres, lowering pressure and affecting steering pretty badly. Ensure your tyre pressure is what it needs to be more regularly than you would in the warmer months, and double check to see if your spare tyre’s in good working order.

Check your battery.

Cold and damp conditions can really kill your battery, so it’s worth testing it yourself if you have the equipment to hand; that said, it’s always more reliable to ask a mechanic to do it for you. Don’t let a coughing start go unnoticed – the last thing you need is to be stranded in the cold because your car won’t kick into action.

Clean your car if you’ve dealt with a gritter.

We all hate that shrapnel effect of a gritter going past, but aside from the brief shock of the noise of spattering salt on our windshields, salt can have a much worse effect on cars, accelerating rust (especially when combined with wet conditions). When you can, clean your car (preferably when it isn’t sub-zero, to avoid freezing), and remove all excess salt.

Weigh your car down.

Most people drive hatchbacks or small cars – they’re nimble and perfect for busy commutes. However, as soon as the cold air hits those wet roads, it’s like an ice rink – which is why you need to consider what’s best for your control. Fill your boot with heavier items on days when you don’t need the space, and it’ll give you more control and perhaps be the difference between a swerve and a small crash. While most cars are front-wheel drive in the UK, having more in the back will help those tyres offer you a little more dependability.