As the evenings grow darker and the weather grows colder, it feels like winter is on the way. It’s a good idea to prepare your car for winter travel by packing some essentials in case of a breakdown or interruption to your travel.
You will find some retailers sell ready-made kits in handy bags you can keep in your car boot, however they mainly contain the same essentials:
Ice scraper – some cars now have the luxury of heated windscreens but it’s still useful to keep a scraper and some de-icer in your car. It’s a legal requirement to keep your windscreen clear of ice or snow, this should be fully cleared before you set off on your journey. Remember to add time to do this for your return journey too.
Torch – a wind-up torch or a torch with spare batteries is incredibly useful in the event of a breakdown, especially on a dark night or in an unlit area. They can also be used to shine light on your tyres to check before setting off on your journey - better than relying on your mobile phone’s light!
Fully charged mobile phone - so you can contact friends and family in the event of a delay or call for breakdown assistance if you need it. It should go without saying that it is illegal and dangerous to use a handheld phone when driving so make sure it is synced up with your car’s system if you have one, or alternatively pull over somewhere safe to make a call. It’s also useful to take a backup powerbank or charging cable.
Route planning aids – if your car has inbuilt navigation or can sync with your smartphone then make sure you set it up before setting off. For longer journeys on unfamiliar roads it’s also a good idea to have a printed map as a back up, for those rare occasions when technology fails.
Warm clothes and blankets - if you breakdown in winter you could have a significant wait with no heating, make sure each passenger has warm and waterproof clothes in the car to wear during the wait. We all know how cold and wet British winters can be!
First-aid kit – hopefully you won’t need it but it’s a good idea to keep a small first aid kit in your car with items such as plasters, dressings, sterile wipes and scissors. You can make up your own or purchase a readymade kit.
Food and drink – all good roadtrips require snacks, but definitely remember to pack some extra food and drink to eat should your journey end up taking longer than planned. Bonus points for bringing a flask with a hot drink.
Sunglasses – winter sun on icy or snowy roads can cause glare and hurt your eyes over time, packing a pair of sunglasses will make driving more comfortable and keep you looking cool!
Two reflective warning signs – these are a legal requirement in many EU countries and optional in the UK, but it’s still a good idea to have them in your boot. Place them to the front and rear of your car in the event of a breakdown to warn passing motorists that your vehicle is there, just never use them on the motorway.
Jump start cables – flat batteries can happen from time to time and it’s much more likely to happen in cold weather. Keeping some leads in your car can have you back on the road in no time at all.
Shovel – particularly useful if you’re travelling on snowy days and perhaps need to dig yourself out of a driveway or car park.
Empty fuel can – everyone thinks they will never run out of fuel but it happens to the best of us. Keeping an empty can in your boot means you can pop to a (hopefully nearby!) petrol station and get back on the road in no time at all.
There is no law requiring you to carry emergency essentials in your car, but it’s definitely a good idea especially if you are planning longer journeys over the winter period. It’s also important to use common sense when driving in winter, if the weather is exceptionally poor or there are long diversions in place then consider postponing your journey if it isn’t essential.
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