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Winter driving – be prepared

While it’s true that in most parts of Britain our winter weather can hardly be described as arctic, it’s still important to plan ahead for winter driving on a ‘just in case’ basis.

At GSI Insurance, we know from our conversations with clients that sometimes cold snaps have caught them unawares. So, we’ve put together here a ‘top tips’ list that we hope you’ll find useful.


Whatever the forecast, at the start of winter:

  • top up with anti-freeze in your coolant and screen washers. Your car’s manual will usually contain full information on the ‘how’ and if not, you’ll find guidance online;
  • check your lights more frequently. This is a legal requirement but with long dark days, you’ll be using them more frequently and it’s always best to spot a blown bulb yourself rather than have the police point it out to you. Remember, keeping your vehicle legally compliant may be a mandatory requirement of some motor insurance policies;
  • if possible, think about garaging your car overnight. It’ll start a lot more smoothly in the mornings if it’s been inside and not frozen solid;
  • put a pair of boots, insulated gloves, thick socks and some very warm clothing and even rugs in the boot. Whatever your partner or friends might say about your appearance, make sure that includes a woolly hat! These things could save your life if you’re unlucky and get stuck in snow in a rural area and are forced to leave your car;
  • keep a good strong torch in the car and make sure its battery is fully charged (this is probably a good idea even in summer);
  • take advice on your motor oil. In typical UK conditions, changing oils to winter ones isn’t usually required but if you’re in the far north of Scotland or unusually bad conditions are forecast, this might be advisable;
  • keep a can or two of de-icer in the car and some WD-40 or the equivalent;
  • give your car a thorough service and check. Breakdowns in summer can be annoying but during winter driving they can be a nightmare and even dangerous.

Specifics for bad weather forecasts

If you see bad news on its way through the forecast:

  • question whether it’s absolutely essential that you travel. Staying at home is the best safety measure you can adopt in dangerous weather conditions;
  • upgrade your basic bad weather equipment in the car to include a sturdy shovel and some candles (plus a means to light them). If you get stuck, the warmth of a single candle may help keep you alive;
  • where possible, make sure you carry a flask of hot soup or tea/coffee with you and that it’s full;
  • pack some chocolate or other high-energy and comforting foodstuff – and try not to eat it unless you have to! Again, if you’re unlucky and get stuck for several hours, these things can be invaluable;
  • if you’re on regular medication, take it with you just in case you don’t get home in time for your next required dose;
  • taking a towing rope, bar or chain is a good idea. Make sure that it can be physically attached to your car by whatever means;
  • tell people of your intended routes, travel times and ETAs.

Even in largely suburban areas, bad weather with lots of snow can cause chaos and situations that are at best uncomfortable and at worst dangerous.

So, make sure you’re as prepared as you can be for winter driving.

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