Winter Safety Essentials to Keep in Your Car
Car stuck in snow
With winter fast-approaching, and the temperature already dropping fairly rapidly, it’s a good idea to start getting the gear together that you should keep in your car throughout winter.
In the UK, heavy snow can hit unexpectedly and leave drivers either stuck because of no traction, or trapped in queues of traffic so long that cars are abandoned. It happened a lot in winter 2010 in the UK, and it’s better to be prepared than get caught out.
So, here’s our winter guide on what essential gear to keep in your car.
Windscreen de-icer spray and washer-bottle fluid
Seems obvious, but many get caught out when the weather suddenly drops below zero and they’re simply not ready for it. You can buy pre-mixed washer fluid, but often it’s better to buy concentrated screenwash as you can then vary the mixture depending on how cold it is – and it’s often cheaper too.
Always look on the container for the operating temperature. Some only go down to -5˚C, while others are rated at -15˚C and below. The same goes for spray de-icers. Keep in mind wind temperature is a lot colder, and when using your screenwash at speed it could still freeze over if you haven’t got the mixture right. Always keep a couple of cans or bottles of de-icer spray in the car as the car could be iced over as quickly as you’ve walked around the shops.
TIP: if you buy these a couple of months before winter really hits, products such as de-icer, windscreen fluid, ice scrapers etc, tend to be cheaper. During the cold winter of 2009, the severe cold lasted so long that shops were physically running out of de-icer spray and washer fluid, and prices started shooting up on these consumables.
A good quality ice-scraper
It is always funny to see people scrubbing away furiously at the ice on their car’s glass with a tiny, flimsy-looking ice-scraper. It’s not exactly a fun job, and it’s always the last thing you want in a morning when it’s dark. cold and you have to get to work.
Take our advice, and buy a proper beast of scraper such as the IceDozer Plus 2.0. This is a monster of a thing, with teeth for smashing through even thick, heavy ice, plus a handy clip-off brush attachment and mini-scraper built in. Make your neighbours jealous as it takes all of about 2 minutes to clear your entire car.
As mentioned at the start of the article, should heavy snow and ice move in unexpectedly, the usually-easy commute home can turn into a living nightmare, with traffic jammed so badly and not moving that cars can be stuck overnight or even abandoned!
Should your car break down or overheat from the engine running at a standstill for long periods, you’ll need a thick, warm blanket to keep warm. Amazon or eBay have a huge choice, but always read the reviews of them first to make sure they’re going to be warm enough, and make sure it’s large enough to cover your entire body.
Heavy jacket/boots/thick socks/waterproof trousers/gloves
Should you need to abandon your car and walk, or even just try to dig it out, you’ll need a big winter jacket, sturdy boots and thick gloves. Yes, this might seem like overkill, but you’d soon be thankful if the temperature had dropped to -10˚C and the snow was thick.
The waterproof trousers would stop snow for soaking your trousers or jeans, and you can pack both this and the socks inside the boots when not being used, to save room.
When I talk about packing gloves, we’re not talking about those cheap, stretchy £5.00 ones you can buy at any petrol station, which have little-to-zero effect against cold wind and moisture. Nope, instead buy yourself some waterproof gloves or mitts to keep your fingers warm and working properly. Any outdoor shop will sell them from around £20.00 upwards.
Fuel can and fuel
Keeping fuel in your car is handy for when you’re stuck in traffic for long periods, and also in case the fuel trucks don’t reach the station because of the bad weather.
For the car, buy a standard-size 5 litre plastic container which is properly sealed for no change of spillage. Expect to pay just £4 – £6.00 for one.
Refueling canister Refueling canister
TIP: 5 litres = 1 UK gallon. Work out your car’s miles-per-gallon economy to work out how far this will get you. Example: If your car gets 50 mpg, you’ve just added approximately that to your fuel range. If you’re really concerned about needing to get home, you could buy two as they’re quite compact.
If you lived in a more isolated area where the weather could be worse than other places hence fuel deliveries not getting through, we would recommend buying a genuine, metal 20-litre Jerry can and storing it in your garage or outside (covered over). Jerry cans can be bought on eBay or Amazon for around the £20.00 mark.
TIP: The size of fuel tanks on cars range from around 45 litres to 100 litres (your car’s handbook will usual say what capacity it is), so work out how many Jerry cans you’d need to fill the tank completely for peace of mind. Don’t store fuel for more than a year as it can actually start to go bad, surprisingly.
Tow rope/snow chains/tyre socks
For whatever reason – in the UK at least – even if the weather is terrible, with sideways thick snow and freezing temperatures, people like to decide to try to do their normal commute. In a 2-wheel-drive cars with with standard road tyres, this usually leads to them getting stuck.
If you’re insistent on doing this, firstly get yourself some proper winter tyres, but if you can’t afford those or are too stubborn to give up, there are a few easy things to help you out.
Possibly one of the most handy things to keep in your car over wintertime is the humble tow rope. At around just £7 – £10, it could be the difference between staying stuck and getting going again, should someone be willing to actually give you a tow.
Tip: Don’t rely on other drivers to have a tow rope. Most don’t! Secondly, make sure you get the correct weight. Remember: there’s the pulling weight is much higher than just the weight of your car, so factor that in. The minimum for a small car should be a 2-tonne rope or strap.
Tyre socks are a great way to get out of trouble. They simply slip over the two driving wheels of your car, and then grip the snow and ice, allowing you to get going. You can’t use them at full speed on a road, but they’d get you up a slippery hill. Beware cheap sets as they’ll shred and possibly only be good for one or two uses.
AutoSock.co.uk sell high quality ones, and prices start at around £49.00 for a pair.
Tyre chains are obviously for when you’ll use them more often than tyre socks, and are much more heavy-duty, designed for tackling rough surfaces and longer distances. They cost from 45.00 upwards depending on brand, size etc.
There are more things you’d be wise to pack in your car, and for a full list, plus information on how to prepare your car for the winter months, please have a read of this useful article on the Chipex blog.
Written and collated by Chris Davies – an award-winning motoring journalist writing for CarProductsTested.com