Car Breakdown Tips and Winter Emergency Car Kit Checklist

The winter weather can impact your car’s performance and increase the risk of breaking down. Therefore, it is a great idea to be prepared for if the worst happens and your car breaks down in cold conditions. 

Read our handy winter breakdown kit for guidance on what to keep in your vehicle.

Winter Emergency Breakdown Kit Checklist

1. Jump Leads

A flat or dead battery can happen to any car, regardless of its age, although cold weather will make it more likely. 

Keep a set of jump cables or leads in your vehicle so that if your battery happens to be flat, you can use the jump leads to get your battery going again. To use jump cables, you will need another vehicle with a fully charged battery; however, avoid using a hybrid or electric car, as this could cause damage to the vehicle. 

2. Torch and Spare Batteries

As the chances of your car breaking down are more likely in winter, keeping a torch in your vehicle is vital. Especially if you happen to break down on the side of a country road in the dark, this situation would be very dangerous and frightening. 

Ensure you have spare batteries for your torch because you don’t want the batteries to fail and be without light at nighttime. Another option could be a wind-up torch which doesn’t require battery power.

3. Ice Scraper and De-icer

Ensuring your windscreen, mirrors, and windows are clear before you drive is essential, as it is illegal to drive without a clear windscreen. 

Make sure you have an ice scraper in your vehicle, and having a bottle of de-icer will speed up the process. Ensure these items are kept in your vehicle, so you have them on your return journey or if you break down. 

4. Emergency Warning Triangle

An emergency warning triangle is designed to warn other motorists that your car has broken down to avoid collisions. We recommend you have two triangles and position one at the front of your car and then one at the rear.

Ensure the triangles are at least 45 metres away from your vehicle, although the highway code advises never to use them on the motorway. 

5. Warm Clothing and Blankets

If you break down, it is likely that your car’s heaters will not work, resulting in you waiting without any heat. This is why it’s essential to keep warm clothes and blankets in the boot of your vehicle to keep you warm whilst you wait for help.

6. Food and Water

When you break down, you never know how long you could be waiting, so keeping some snacks and water in your car is a good idea. A good snack choice is protein cereal bars, as they are easy to store and usually have a long expiry date. Although, be sure to keep an eye on the expiry dates of any food and drinks you keep in your car.

7. Hi-vis Clothing

A high-visibility jacket is an excellent addition to keeping you safe when de-icing your car or if you break down. As there are fewer daylight hours in winter, it gets darker quickly in the evenings. You are less likely to be seen, which could be very dangerous, especially on country lane roads.

8. First Aid Kit

You never know when you may need a first aid kit, and in the winter, there is a higher chance of slipping over and injuring yourself. So keeping one in your boot is a good idea, just in case you have a minor injury.

9. Fully Charged Mobile Phone and Portable Charger

If you break down, you will need to use your mobile phone to contact a breakdown recovery vehicle to help you get on the road again. By ensuring you have a fully charged mobile phone and a portable charger, you won’t have to worry about being stuck without a mobile phone.

10. Medicine

If you have regular medicine that you need to take or have with you, such as tablets, inhalers etc., make sure you have a spare in your vehicle. Be sure to regularly check the expiry date of these medicines, especially if they are kept in your car for a long time. Likewise, if you wear contact lenses or glasses, make sure you have a spare pair, just in case something happens to your current ones.

11. Cash

It is always handy to have cash on you, just in case you forget your wallet or purse. You may need to get a taxi to the nearest petrol station in the event of a breakdown, so it’s always good to have backup money on hand.

12. Snow Shovel

We recommend you keep a snow shovel in your car, as this could prevent you from getting stranded. Also, it allows you to dig out any compact snow from under the car or around the wheels.

13. Tyre Inflator

You don’t want to be left stranded in the cold weather because your tyre has suffered a puncture, and you haven’t got the right tool to pump it back up. This is why it is important to keep a tyre inflator in your vehicle, as it allows you to pump your tyre up enough to get you to a garage or your destination.

14. Spare Car Bulbs

As the winter months have less daylight, you are more likely to be driving around in the dark. Therefore, keeping some spare car bulbs in your car is vital because if they stop working, it will become unsafe and illegal to drive around in the dark.

15. Took Kit

A simple tool kit can be handy in your vehicle, as there are some roadside fixes you can do yourself, such as changing your headlight. Your kit could include a couple of screwdrivers, pliers, and an adjustable wrench.

16. Empty Fuel Can

You never know when you might run out of fuel, so it is important to keep an empty fuel can in your vehicle, just in case. If there isn’t a petrol station nearby, or it isn’t safe to travel on foot, then the next option would be to call your breakdown cover.

Winter Car Breakdown FAQs

What To Do If My Car Breaks Down in The Cold?

The first thing to do would be to put your hazard lights on, as this warns everyone that you have broken down. If you have a hi-vis jacket, place this on and, if safe, put your emergency warning triangle at least 45 metres away from the rear of your vehicle. If you have two triangles, put one at the front and rear of the car if safe to do so. However, do not do this on the motorway as it is unsafe.

Next, contact somebody for help and keep yourself warm, this is where the extra clothing and blankets in your winter emergency car kit will come in handy. Your vehicle will offer you the best protection against the weather if it is safe to stay in your car.

If you break down on the motorway, try to get your vehicle onto the hard shoulder or the left-hand side lane. Then, exit your vehicle through the left-hand side door and stand behind the safety barriers to protect you from oncoming traffic.

How To Avoid a Winter Breakdown

A winter breakdown is not something you expect to happen, so we have got some tips for you.

1. Look After The Battery

Keep your battery charged by taking it on regular runs of at least 30 minutes. Car batteries tend to last about five years, so keep an eye on how your battery performs and replace it when it’s due. 

2. Check Your Coolant

You must check your coolant level regularly, as this is because it will prevent the water in the cooling system from freezing when the temperature drops.

3. Use a Screen Wash Additive

In the winter conditions, you want your screen wash undiluted to prevent your washer jets from freezing up. However, if you keep trying to spray screenwash when frozen, you risk blowing a fuse that could impact another part of your car.

4. Check Your Wipers Are Off

In the colder months, ensure that the wipers aren’t set to automatic, as they might turn on and get stuck, resulting in damage to your wipers or a blown fuse. Also, ensure that your wipers aren’t stuck to the windscreen before driving your vehicle.

5. Fuel

Winter seasons usually come with weather disruptions and increased traffic, which is likely to increase the number of delays. To avoid breaking down to low fuel, ensure you have at least a quarter of a tank full.

How To Start a Car in Cold Weather

Starting a car in the cold weather can sometimes be challenging as the cold can take a toll on your car. Here are some tips on how to start your car in the cold weather.

Turn Off All Electricals

Before turning the engine on, ensure that all electricals are switched off, including any headlights, heaters, radios and defrosters. This gives you a better chance of the car starting as all the energy is focused on the vehicle starting.

Be aware that even if your battery does start, let it run for a while to ensure it has enough power before switching these accessories back on, as this could potentially drain the battery again. 

Dip The Clutch When Turning The Ignition

Before turning the ignition, make sure you don’t crank it for more than 10 seconds, as this can cause the starter motor to overheat. Next, make sure that your car is in neutral, dip the clutch and turn the ignition. This is an important step as it lightens the load on your battery and puts less strain on the battery, therefore making it much more likely to start. 

If you find that your car doesn’t start after cranking, then let the engine rest for a few minutes and try again. 

Try Starting Your Car Again

If the engine is close to starting but still sounds slower than usual, make sure you give it another break and try starting it again. In the event that your car isn’t turning over, the best option would be to jump-start your vehicle’s battery.

Why Does My Car Start Slow in The Winter?

Starting a car in the cold can come with a delay due to the cold conditions. Here are the three most common reasons your car may struggle to start up.

1. Battery Struggles to Start

The battery’s chemical reactions will take place more slowly when the battery is cold, resulting in the battery producing fewer electrons. This impacts the starter motor as it has less energy to work with when it tries to start the engine. 

It can be common for your battery to struggle in winter conditions. However, it could signify that your car’s battery is old and weak and may need replacing.

If you think your car’s battery is degrading and may need replacing, then get in touch with us, and an experienced technician will be able to advise you. 

2. Thicker Engine Oil

When it is cold, the car’s oil becomes much thicker, making it much harder for the oil to be pushed around the engine to be able to spin.

3. Fuel Evaporates Less

Fuel does not evaporate as quickly in cold weather conditions. This is because the fuel needs to be vaporised for it to burn, so the colder weather will make it harder for it to burn.

Get Your Vehicle Serviced Regularly

Here at Walker Cutting, we are here to help if you notice any issues with your vehicle. It is best to get your car checked out before an issue with your vehicle becomes an even bigger problem, resulting in you breaking down. If you notice any issues with your vehicle, get in touch, and an experienced technician will contact you.

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