As the first flakes of snow begin to fall around the UK this week, it’s important to know what to do if you break down when driving this winter.
Keeping a car in first-class mechanical condition will increase its reliability and is the best way from breaking down altogether. However, we know that freak accidents do happen and that sometimes, you can get stranded through plain bad luck.
Even if you don’t break down, some of our top tips on what to do if the weather halts your journey can certainly come in useful. Here they are.
Even a fairly limited survival kit can keep you warm in the event of a winter breakdown. At the bare minimum, it should consist of some sturdy footwear, warm clothes, water and a torch.
Other items that can come in useful are a fully charged mobile phone, some grit salt, a shovel, hot drinks and food, a blanket, tow rope and jump leads. If you get caught in a blizzard or come off the road, these items should either help get back on your way or keep you safe and warm while you wait for the emergency services.
They may also come in handy if you come across a stranded motorist in need of help.
STAY IN TOUCH
It’s good practice to notify somebody where you’re going, when your leaving and what time you expect to get there – it could even be the people you’re going to see.
This way they have an idea of how your journey is progressing, especially if you’re late, raising the alarm if you don’t turn up at all.
And here’s where having a working mobile comes in useful. If you do need help, all it takes is one phone call to the emergency services and they’ll be able to help you out as soon as possible.
You can also let your friends and family know where you are and that you’re ok.
FIRST AID KIT
Separate to your winter survival kit, it’s worth keeping a first aid kit inside your car all year round.
This should contain common items, such as plasters and bandages, but also make sure you keep a supply of any medication you take in case you break down and don’t have access to any.
This means your health and medical well-being will stay strong during any slight pause to your journey, which is the first and foremost point to remember.
If you are unfortunate enough to get stuck, ensuring your car is topped up with fuel can be extremely useful. If the mercury plummets to below zero, the chances are you’ll want to keep your car’s heater running to stay warm.
This only works with the engine running, which uses fuel. Ensuring the tank stays topped up, or keeping a reserve supply in a secure container in the boot can help you stay warm and therefore safe and healthy in the event of a breakdown.
It might be a distressing situation, but getting worked up and hysterical won’t help things. In fact, doing exactly the opposite will.
Staying calm will help you to make rational and logical decisions, which could be key to your well-being – such as, “do I stay with my car, or do I work to try and get help?”
This depends on a number of circumstances. Do you know how far the next town or village is? How cold and windy is it? Do you have the right clothing? Is it safe to do so on the road you’re on?
By remaining level-headed, you stand the best chance of resolving the situation as quickly and as safely as possible.
PACK A MAP
Many modern vehicles are fitted with satellite navigation – in fact, drivers of older cars often purchase aftermarket items that carry out the same function.
This means drivers have lost a connection with the good old paper map, to a degree. These can come in very handy in a break down situation – especially if you’re in a rural area.
You might be able to judge how far it is to the next settlement, being able to make a decision on whether to walk for help or stay with your car.
But more importantly, it will help you pinpoint your location and notify the relevant authorities, breakdown service or friends and family. If your car goes kaput, a map can really help.
HI-VIS VEST AND WARNING TRIANGLE
If you break down in the dark – and over winter, there are more hours of darkness – wearing high-visibility clothing and erecting a warning triangle is advised.
Ensure your hazard lights are flashing, too, if they’re working. This way it’ll be easy to spot your stricken vehicle at the road side, improving safety until help is at hand.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, as the old adage goes. What we’re really getting at is that you should think ahead and try and plan for most common eventualities in the event of a breakdown.
That way you’ll stay as safe as possible, and been on your way in no time. We want to know what you advise doing in a breakdown? Maybe your car has failed you already this winter? Why not let us know how you dealt with it and what you keep in your survival kit on Twitter @twwhiteandsons or on our Facebook page.