Winter car kits: What emergency equipment should I keep in my car?
There's no shortage of winter car kits on the market to help make sure that you're well-equipped for winter driving. Here, we round up the most important items you'll need in your car over the winter months.
Winter can be a tough time for your car. With the rain, snow, sleet and general cold and icy conditions, there's an increased chance of problems if you don't take care of it.
But what should be in a winter survival kit for a car?
To help you out, we've compiled the below list of the top products you need in a winter survival kit for a car - both to keep your car in good condition and to keep you safe while winter driving.
The winter cocktail of rain, sleet, snow and general traffic grime can play havoc with your windscreen, and often requires a different kind of screenwash to the one you use in the summer to get rid of bugs.
A lot of specialist winter screenwash products come in concentrated form, but Prestone offer a ready-to-use formula which can work all the way down to -23 degrees Celsius (Prestone, £7.99).
Autoglym's 500 ml Ultimate Screenwash is a highly concentrated formula that can be diluted to make up to 8 litres of screenwash, or you can use the concentrated form to remain effective in extreme cold (Autoglym, £7.13)
It is imperative that all ice is cleared from all of your windows before you drive, and the quickest (and probably easiest) way to do so is by using de-icer.
Car Plans' Winter Essentials Gift Pack comes with 300ml of de-icer as well as a 500ml bottle of screenwash and a free ice scraper (Car Plan, £5.01).
Another popular choice is Prestone de-icer. You can get a 3-pack of 600ml de-icer which can work down to -25 degrees Celsius (Prestone, £9.77).
Many people ask the question: How can I defrost my windscreen quickly? But remember, if you find yourself without de-icer this winter, you are much better off waiting for your car to heat from the inside than using warm water to clear your windscreen.
The instant change between freezing cold and hot can cause glass to crack, while in really cold temperatures, warm water can freeze over twice as thick.
Car battery charger
One of the most common driver mishaps through the winter months is leaving car lights on. As the clocks fall back at the end of October, the nights start getting darker, meaning that it's easy to leave your headlights on overnight after a long day in work - you may even leave them on after a dark morning commute to the office, leaving you stranded there come 5pm!
In the warmer months, you may get away with leaving either interior lights or headlights on for a couple of hours – particularly if your battery is in good condition – but this time can be cut dramatically as the cold kicks in.
Investing in jump leads to keep in the car all year round is a good option, as other motorists will be able to help you out by giving you a jump-start.
Another option is to buy a car battery charger, which you can use to give the battery a quick top-up to get the engine up and running.
The AA Battery Charger & Maintainer is a popular choice (AA, £24.29)
As the wintry weather starts to set in, it may feel odd thinking about needing sunglasses - but these are an essential part of a driver's winter tool set.
The low sun in winter can cause serious visibility problems, as can the glare from wet roads and snow - so make sure you always have a pair of sunglasses to hand when you're driving.
Sunglasses with polarised lenses are the best for driving, as these provide sharpened detail and less glare. Like everyday sunglasses, some can be very expensive - but as you'll only be using them sparingly when you drive we recommend the Duco polarised sunglasses (Duco, £22), which get the job done without costing a small fortune.
Emergency winter car kit
If you end up stranded in the middle of nowhere on a freezing winter night, then you will be glad that you invested in an emergency car kit.
The AA Winter Car Kit (AA, £27.79) includes a folding shovel to help clear snow and ice out of the way, a high-vis vest, a foil blanket, a 9-LED torch, insulated booster cables, a rain poncho and snow and ice grips.
Basically, everything you might need to make sure you stay safe in an emergency during winter driving - all for less than £30!
You may never need to use it (we hope you don't), but the kit comes packaged in a handy carry case and can be easily stored in the boot for quick access, making it a no-brainer when it comes to answering the question: what do I need for my car in the winter?
You might think it's a bit obvious to recommend warm clothes in winter, but hands-up who keeps warm items of clothing in the car just in case?
If you don't, then you should definitely consider it. Keeping warm and dry is probably the first thing you'll be thinking about if you have to get out the car during a blizzard – and remember, if you don’t have the aforementioned jump leads or car battery charger, you won’t have a cosy heated vehicle to rely on for very long.
The key to staying warm is layers, so keep an old hoodie or cardigan in the car at all times during the winter so you can quickly throw it on and layer up in the event of an accident.
You could even invest in a pack of disposable hand warmers which provide instant heat and stay warm for up to 12 hours, like these from The Heat Company, £6.99.
Food and drink
Long delays are common in winter, whether it's due to your own car breaking down or because the hazardous conditions have caused a delay, and it is not uncommon to be confined to your own car for at least a couple of hours.
When this does happen, you'll be glad you thought ahead and kept a little bag of snacks and water in the car to keep you going - just remember to avoid perishable goods like fruit and replace any food you eat ASAP, otherwise you could find yourself back to square one.