Winter car breakdowns snowed under car

Winter Car Breakdowns: Dos and Don’ts

Winter is commonly referred to as the season of celebrations, however it is also known for its notoriety when it comes to sudden car breakdowns. Winter car breakdowns are often less predictable and are caused by conditions that lie outside of your powers. Weather conditions can change very quickly and your car, especially if it is parked outside rather than in a garage, will be the first to be hit by the big chill. Depending on where you live and what plans you may have made for that day, a sudden car breakdown can be a real hassle and cold weather doesn’t make it any better.

But do not worry, Autonational have put together a short list of useful tips that will help you make those horrible winter car breakdowns avoidable and manageable if it does happen.

1. Plan your journey

Plan your route before setting off on a long journey during bad weather conditions

Winters in the UK are most definitely not as notorious as they are in some parts of the world, however if you live in the northern part of Britain you may disagree with this statement more than a person who lives in the south. The UK gets on average 23.7 days of snowfall or sleet a year, while the most northern areas of the island can get up to 50 days of snow fall, the most southern parts can get close to none. Every year these numbers go up and down, therefore it is always a good idea to check the weather before you make any long journeys. If heavy snow is predicted, carefully consider whether your journey can be avoided or delayed until the weather conditions become better. If you do however, still decide to carry out your journey, make sure to let a friend or a family member know about your plans and the route that you will be taking. Winter car breakdowns are known to be unpredictable and it is a good idea to be prepared for it.

2. Check your car 

Now that you have planned your journey with weather conditions in mind, turn to your car. Just because your car might have been functioning faultlessly throughout the year, it does not mean that it will function as successfully during the winter period. There are certain steps that you can follow when checking whether your car is suitable for the journey ahead.

Winter car breakdowns are often caused by minor accidents due to poor visibility

Fuel – This may seem very obvious, but make sure that you have enough fuel. You are a lot more likely to be faced with constant stop/start conditions, which drains your fuel levels a lot quicker.

Screenwash – Not all screenwash is the same, it is very important to get one that can handle the temperature that the car will face. During winter months it is a good idea to get one that can handle temperatures of at least -10°C.

Oil – Always be sure that your car’s oil levels are topped up, not doing so may lead to engine damage or a breakdown.

Tyres – Depending on what area of the UK you live in or are planning to travel to, it might be worth investing money into winter tyres, these will work in temperatures below 7°C. Don’t forget to carry out the basic damage, tread and pressure checks on your tyres, these will ensure that a breakdown is less likely to occur.

Electrics – Snow storms, or more likely rain storms in the UK,  lead to worsened visibility during the winter months. It is therefore very important to see and be seen by other drivers. Make sure that all your headlights and indicators are working properly. If you are getting in a car after heavy snow fall, make sure that no frozen snow is covering your car’s headlights, this can lead to blockage of light when braking or indicating.

Coolant – This one is quite important and the name probably say it all – make sure that you have enough anti-freeze in your engine’s coolant to avoid causing damage to your car’s engine.

3. Handling winter car breakdowns

As the saying goes ‘expect the unexpected’, sometimes carrying out even the most intricate checks on your car may not protect it from breaking down. In which case, you will be more than pleased that you have a breakdown insurance. Why not have a look at what our comprehensive Autonational Breakdown Insurance can offer for you.

Being prepared for a breakdown during winter months is very important. Waiting for your breakdown rescue to arrive is no fun no matter what conditions you are in, however during winter these conditions are likely to make that wait even more inconvenient and sometimes dangerous. Below are a few tips that will help you stay safe during this winter, these of course should be carried out along with the basic car breakdown procedures, which you can find here.

winter car breakdowns cold weather clothing
Winter car breakdowns call for appropriate attire

Stay warm 

It is probably pretty obvious that when it is cold, you should dress warm, however many people make the mistake of dressing for a car journey without considering the possibility of a car breakdown.

When a car breaks down on a public road or a motorway, the driver and passengers are advised to leave the car (using the doors facing away from the traffic) and stand behind the barriers while waiting for rescue to arrive.

This wait outside in the cold will be much more bearable when you are wearing warm clothes, so be sure that in your car you have all the winter essential wear, such as gloves, a warm coat, a scarf and a hat.

Be seen 

During winter period, you’ll find that the days are much shorter, with dark setting in as early as 3:30pm. This means that during winter time as well as being faced with the cold, you are also very likely to experience a car breakdown in the dark. This can add extra danger to a breakdown, due to a lack of visibility to both you and other drivers on the road. Be sure to carry a visibility jacket in your car at all times and put it on as soon as you experience a breakdown. Another good idea is to have a torch light, this can help you maintain visibility inside your car, if you want to not drain your battery by keeping your interior lights on. A torch light will also come in handy when navigating your way around the outside, in case you are able to wait for the rescue behind the motorway barriers.