What Car? winter driving guide 2018

Winter is well and truly here, and this is our guide to making sure you, and your car, are ready for the worst of the elements. Our ultimate winter motoring guide offers car maintenance and driving tips and examines the pros and cons of winter tyres

Words ByWhat Car? team

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Driving can be dangerous in winter. It doesn't even have to snow to cause havoc. The rain, the cold and the longer nights all make this a riskier time to be behind the wheel.

Over the next few pages, we'll tell you need to know to stay safe on the roads this winter.

Part 1 - get your car ready for winter

First thing's first - it's vital that your car is in top working order so it's ready to tackle the worst of driving conditions. We're highlighting these checks as being necessary for winter driving, but if you perform them all year round, you and your car will be prepared for whatever comes your way.


We focus on winter tyres a bit later on, but whether you go for winter, summer or all-year tyres, we recommend you regularly check their condition and pressure. Ensure that your tyres have plenty of tread (1.6mm across three-quarters of the tyre, all the way round, is the legal minimum). You can measure the tread with a 20p piece. Hold the coin in the tread and as long as the rubber comes above the border around the coin, your car's tyres are legal.

The recommended tyre pressures for your car will be listed either in the manual or on the door frame.


You don't want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere because of a flat battery, so it's worth taking your car into a garage to have its battery tested. Make sure the battery is in good condition and fully charged and, if you're concerned, carry a set of 'jump' cables with you, so you can connect to another car's battery and give yours a jump start if needed.

Brakes and brake lights

Wet, snowy or icy conditions all increase stopping distances. Check that your car's brakes work effectively and that the brake lights are functioning.


Check oil levels and ensure you use the correct engine oil because cold weather can make it thicken. Information on which oil to use can be found in the manual or it can be obtained from the manufacturer's service department.

Washer fluid

You’ll use far more screenwash than normal because of the spray thrown up by damp, salty roads, so make sure you keep it topped up. Also make sure it's of a high enough concentration so that it won't freeze.


Check your windscreen wipers - they shouldn't smear dirt across the screen. If your wipers aren’t clearing the screen properly, clean them first, then replace them if that doesn’t work. Perished or split wiper blades should also be replaced immediately.


Keep your car topped up with fuel so you can run it to keep warm if you get stuck in snow.


Top up your radiator with anti-freeze - your local garage will be able to check that it's the right concentration. Anti-freeze comes in different colours, but generally red anti-freeze lasts longer than blue, green or orange colours.


In conditions where visibility is reduced, your car's lights make other road users aware of your presence. Check that all lights are functioning as they should, including brake lights and indicators. Also check your foglights. However, only use them when visibility is poor because they can dazzle other road users and make your brake lights difficult to see.

Click through to the next page for part 2 of our ultimate winter driving guide

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