Make sure you’re ready for anything this Christmas with our driving essentials checklist for winter travelling.
There are only a few days left before we all hit the road for Christmas. And if your journey is looking to be a long one, it’s important that you’re prepared for any unexpected problems along the way. While I’m sure you’ve given your cars a proper once-over, making sure there’s nothing mechanical that could lead to your downfall – there are some important packing essentials that you might have overlooked. So aside from presents and mince pies, here are our onboard essentials to make sure you don’t become unstuck this Christmas.
It’s important to be prepared for your car freezing over at any time of the day, not just first thing in the morning. Whether you’re staying overnight somewhere or leaving that same day, having an ice-scraper and de-icer ready can save you a lot of time and frustration waiting for your car to heat up and the ice to melt. And it’s important to remember that the entire windscreen needs to be clear of ice, or you’re at risk of a £60 fine and three points on your license. For tips on de-icing, we put together a dos and don’ts list, which you can read here.
It’s not just snow and ice that you need to worry about obscuring your view. Grit, mud, and slush can all flick up from the road onto your windscreen, meaning it’ll need cleaning more often than usual so you can see properly. Make sure you have extra screenwash, just in case.
Torch and spare batteries
With the short winter days and long winter nights, it’s important that you’re prepared for a breakdown in the dark. An essential for this is a proper torch, and not just relying on the torch on your phone. It’s a lot easier to replace the batteries on your torch than replenish the charge on your phone.
Coat, scarf, gloves, and blanket
If your car conks out, it won’t take long for the heat to drop while you wait for roadside assistance. Keeping some emergency layers in your boot can make a huge difference. And it doesn’t need to be much; one large blanket for the rear passengers and some smaller blankets for those in the front is all you need.
Good shoes for driving tend not to do so well in the worst winter weather. Whether it’s wading through snow or navigating icy paths, you’ll fare better with a more durable pair of winter boots, and keep your driving shoes clean and dry. So it’s a good idea to have a pair of boots or wellies in the car for these situations.
While you may already be ahead of us with some of the other items on this list, a shovel may not have come to mind. But you’ll be glad of it if you get stuck somewhere and need to dig yourself out. And don’t worry, foldable shovels are available so you’ll still have plenty of space for your presents!
As drivers, we’re all aware of how hard it is to see pedestrians and cyclists in the dark without some high-vis clothing. So make sure you’re visible to other drivers if you need to get out of the car with a high-vis jacket.
Mobile phones have become such a large part of our lives, they’re almost like another limb. And they can be invaluable in the event of an emergency, whether it’s calling for help or using maps to find out where you are and what’s nearby, so make sure you have something to keep your phone charged. Even if your car doesn’t have a USB connection point, you can charge your phone on the move with a cigarette lighter USB adaptor. It’s also a good idea to have a fully charged portable charger, just in case the engine goes and you can’t charge your phone that way.
Before the days of sat-navs and smartphones, road atlases where a travel essential. While they’ve been made largely redundant by new technology, it’s important to have a back up if technology fails. A good old-fashioned road atlas is just that.
Empty fuel can
Even if your car has been thoroughly prepped and is in perfect condition, running out of fuel will stop you dead in your tracks. And while most petrol stations will sell fuel cans for you put some petrol in, you don’t want to get caught out, and have to go all the way back to the car empty-handed.
Food and drink
With winter being the busiest period for roadside assistance services, the wait for help in the event of a breakdown could be a lengthy one. A few bags of non-perishable snacks and bottles of water could help keep the wolf from the door until help arrives.
The sub-zero winter temperatures put greater strain on your car’s battery than normal, so even new cars are at risk of a flat battery. Having a set of jump cables ready if a friendly passerby stops to help could save huge amounts of time waiting for roadside assistance. Just make sure you know what you’re doing. Click here for an infographic on how to jump-starting a car.
While this is really an all-year-round essential, the higher risk of breakdown and unexpected circumstances means having a first aid kit in the car is a winter must. You can buy a pre-stocked car first aid kits, or compile the essentials yourself. Whichever you chose, make sure your kit includes:
- Sterile cleansing wipes
- Waterproof plasters in various sizes
- Revive-Aid resuscitation face shield or similar
Although these are a legal requirement in other European countries, that is not the case in the UK. But if you break down in a poorly lit area, reflective triangles will alert other drivers to you as well as help breakdown providers find you easier. And make sure you have two – one for the in front and one for behind your car. The recommended distance for placing your reflective triangles is at least 45 metres behind your car.
Is there anything on your winter driving essentials list that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments! And for help getting your car winter ready, get in touch with our service teams. They’re based in Byfleet, Bookham, and Orpington.