Preparing for winter – reduce the chances of breaking down

For our cars, just like us, winter can be a challenging time. This season, we’re probably more at risk of breaking down than at other times of the year. To help minimise the risk of this unpleasant situation happening, keeping your car well maintained is a must.


Winter car maintenance – reduce the chances of breaking down

Our cars face certain challenges in winter that they don’t have to face at other times. Things freeze, car parts and road surfaces included. Road conditions are worse than usual, throwing up a mess that can obscure vision making it harder to see and be seen.

Here are a few tips to help keep you motoring through the winter months:

A well maintained battery

Check your car battery regularly. The cold and damp weather can play havoc with batteries and a flat battery is one of the most common causes of a breakdown call out.

If you’re waiting for someone, the temptation is to turn the key enough to get the heaters blasting and the stereo on but be careful. Without the engine running, you’re using the power of your battery. Obviously for short periods, with a new battery this should be fine – but be careful in winter periods when the strain on the battery may be higher.

Batteries don’t usually last for more than about five years so with winter approaching, it might be worth investing in a new one if yours is nearing the end of its life.


Make sure all your car lights are in good working order. Additionally, wintery conditions often give rise to a great deal of dirty spray off the road surface that can coat and dim our car lights. Give them a good wipe to aid visibility.

Oil levels

You should check your oil level all year around anyway. Perhaps with the risk of being broken down in bad weather, with accompanying longer nights, it’s even more important than ever to keep your oil topped up.

Consider antifreeze for radiators

Some older car models may require antifreeze added to the radiator to prevent the cooling system freezing. However, more modern vehicles have longer lasting antifreeze already added to the system which often shouldn’t be mixed with traditional antifreeze solutions.

It’s better to ask a mechanic or your manufacturer if you do have any doubts.

Windscreen visibility

Hopefully it’s a no brainer, but make sure you can see before you drive off! It’s tempting when you’re under time pressure to set off with the windscreen still partially frozen or steamed up. Resist the temptation as you’re much more likely to have an accident – and be held liable for it.

Make sure your windscreen wash bottle is kept full and that it contains some antifreeze. Just like your lights, your windscreen will get covered in muck from road surfaces which can reduce visibility very quickly.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your wiper blades are in good condition to keep your vision clear.

Tyre checks

Some people, particularly those living in colder or more rural areas, may want to fit their car with winter tyres. These come with deeper tread patterns and are better equipped to deal with snow and ice.

If you don’t want to invest in these, you should still make sure that you have adequate amounts of tread left on your tyres. Though the minimum the law requires is 1.6mm, the AA recommends at least 2mm and preferably 3mm. Wet, wintery conditions increases the risk of aquaplaning, the more tread you have available, the less likely this is to happen.

As well as good tread levels, make sure you check your tyre pressures frequently and that it conforms to your manufacturers recommendations.

Emergency equipment

Obviously carrying emergency equipment won’t help prevent your car breaking down, but it will give you some peace of mind that you’re better prepared if it does.

Particularly if you’re heading on a long journey include:

  • Warm clothes
  • Food and drink
  • Wellies
  • A torch
  • A tow rope
  • De-icer
  • A high visibility vest
  • A first aid kit

But have a look at our breakdown checklist for more information. Finally make sure your mobile phone is well charged before you set off – you never know when you might need it.

While you can’t prevent all breakdowns, good maintenance can help reduce the risk. A few minutes invested in some checks could save an unpleasant experience on the road side. Equally, if you’re nervous of carrying out these checks yourself, regular servicing can help to keep your car in tip top condition.

Breakdown cover can also offer you peace of mind in case your car lets you down. We have a range of policies with varying degrees of cover and prices. Why not compare cover now and see if you can find the right policy for you? It could help you out this winter.