With a few sensible precautions, you can stay prepared for any eventuality.
In all conditions
Before any long journey, take a few minutes to check the tread and pressure of your tyres (the legal minimum tread depth in the EU is 1.6mm).
It’s also sensible to keep an emergency kit in your car, just in case. These often contain things like a high-visibility vest, jump leads and basic first-aid supplies. Everyday items like water, a blanket, phone charger and paper towels are also useful.
Some countries ask you to carry certain items by law – like first-aid kits and warning triangles, to alert oncoming drivers if you are stationary in the road – so check what you need before setting off.
If you use winter tyres, be sure to change back to summer ones when the temperature regularly starts going over 10°C. You’ll find your vehicle will perform better with good summer tyres, on wet and dry roads.
It’s easy to forget, but keeping your vehicle’s fluids topped up is vital. Check your oil regularly, make sure you have enough windscreen washer fluid and don’t forget your brake fluid or coolant.
Little known fact: your tyres lose twice as much pressure in summer as they do in winter, so make sure you check your tyre pressure regularly. Underinflated tyres reduce your fuel economy.
Your battery works harder in the summer months, so if it’s a few years old consider having it tested by a professional.
Winter conditions are unpredictable, but if you’re likely to get more than a light dusting of snow during the winter months – or if the temperatures regularly drop below 7°C – you should switch to winter tyres. They provide better traction, grip and handling on snow, slush, ice and frosty roads.
It’s worth remembering that because the ground temperature is often colder than the air temperature – especially at night and first thing in the morning – there are real benefits to winter tyres even when the air is milder.
If you live in a place where you regularly drive in severe winter conditions, you may want to consider tyre chains. They enhance traction on snowy and icy roads and are a legal requirement in some European countries at certain times of the year.
Brakes, heater, defroster
Make sure your brakes are performing the way they should. Check your heater and defroster before the winter comes, so that you’re ready for those cold mornings.
Antifreeze and wiper fluid
Check your coolant – it should contain a 50/50 ratio of water to antifreeze. You should also make sure that your wiper fluid is suitable for winter and won’t freeze. Finally, you might also want to think about replacing your wiper blades ahead of the snowy and icy weather, to make sure they’re up to harsh conditions.
Winter grade oil
You can buy special winter grade oil that will make it easier to start your car on cold mornings. It’s a good idea to have the oil changed before the cold sets in (especially if you’ve switched to thicker oil during the summer months).
Rinse off the salt and chemicals
The salt and chemicals that keep roads safe in winter can corrode your vehicle over time, so be sure to wash them off regularly. While you’re at it, pay close attention to your windows and windscreen – keep them as clean as possible to improve visibility.
Driving in wintry conditions can test the most skilful driver. So slow down, leave extra space between your vehicle and the one in front of you, and learn how to handle skids, snow, and ice. Then you’ll be set to enjoy driving no matter the conditions.