Preparing your car for winter isn't an exciting or glamorous thing to do, but it is a very important one. Although it is still autumn here, winter is approaching and we have already had snow and more forecast in the UK so it is time to get organised.
I carry certain things in my car all year round. A road map, a torch and so on. I will list more of these in a moment. In the autumn I always add some more things to make sure that I am really prepared for any eventuality.
The first thing to check is your car. If you look in the owners manual or handbook, it will tell you if you need to add antifreeze to your coolant, what your tyre pressures should be and so on. Check all of this and make sure that everything is at the right level. Also check your oil level - your handbook will tell you how to do this - and that your lights all work. Make sure that your windscreen wash is full and has washing liquid in it as well as water, otherwise it will freeze.
Check or get your tyres checked to make sure that they are safe, and have plenty of wear left. If not get them changed. Also check to see if you need snow tyres or chains. We don't need those where I live.
If you are unsure about any of this, or don't know what to do, or how to do it, go to your local garage or car centre and they will either do it for you or help you with it.
Once your car is roadworthy, you can move on to adding the extra things just in case something untoward happens, like a flat tyre, or the weather suddenly turning nasty on you. Also make sure that your spare tyre is safe and inflated.
My car has recently been MOT'd (inspected) and had the oil changed, so I knew that all was well with it mechanically.
However, when I went to add the winter things into the boot (trunk) I had to do some sorting out because the bag that I normally used had been used to carry things to Man's new home. So I decided it was a good time for a clear out and reorganise.
First of all I bought some collapsible fabric - and lightweight! - boxes to put everything in.
After a few more seasonal purchases and some organising this is what is now in my car.
For winter I add a bag of cat litter. This is great if you get stuck on an icy patch as no amount of shovelling will get rid of it. The cat litter will give you some great traction though. It really works! I also have two rubber mats in my car and they are good for this as well, but only if you have someone with you. If you use the cat litter once your car is safely moving again you can just drive off and leave the cat litter behind. You can't leave your mats in the road!
I have a very small snow shovel for shovelling snow and a brush to make sure that I can brush off all of the snow on my car. I don't want to use a scraper as it will damage the paint, this is safe to use. You should ensure that you remove ALL of the snow from your car. Otherwise other cars cannot see your lights and if you stop suddenly snow from your roof could shoot forwards down your windscreen and stop you from seeing, or fly backwards and cause someone else a problem. I have seen this happen and it isn't nice. So clean the snow off!
The black and yellow thing is a plastic backed picnic blanket, useful for many things, including picnics.
I have a can of de icer in the car. I prefer to scrape the windscreen with the scraper you see, but this is a useful addition. I also have an old cloth for wiping things, a spare lightbulb, a road map, and reflective and high visibility vest so you can see me if I stop the car. The black box is a tyre inflator that plugs into the lighter socket in the car.
A plastic groundsheet so that you have something to kneel on in the wet if you are changing a wheel. Some tape, a couple of screwdrivers and some wire snips to cut the cable ties off that hold on my hubcaps. I also have a spare tyre, jack and wheelbrace, but they are stowed in the car all the time. The groundsheet and tape are useful for a multitude of things!
Some jump leads. Only use these if you know how to. Even if you don't know, they are useful to have as someone else will know how to use them or be able to talk you through what to do.
My warning triangle folds up, and is a bit of a family heirloom. I have had this in every car that I have owned for many decades now! It was passed on to me. I have never had to use it, and if it continues to keep me safe then that is a good thing! You can get newer lighter ones, but I prefer my old heavy, clunky metal one.
Winter additions include these things. My walking boots in case I don't have suitable shoes on. A blanket in case you get stuck in the car. An old fleece coat that can stay in the car all the time along with warm gloves, scarf, hat and thick socks again just in case I am not wearing these.
I keep mine in those plastic bags that you can squeeze or suck the air out of so that they take up less space in the car.
A packet of biscuits and a bar of chocolate. I also add a new bottle of water to ensure that it will be clean and safe to drink. You could add any medicines you need to this bag as well. I replace these items at the start of each winter. You might also like to include any other personal hygiene items you or perhaps a baby would need if you were stuck in the car too.
A torch (flashlight) with spare batteries, a roll of kitchen paper, some disposable gloves, a packet of tissues, and I always need a spare lip balm!
A small travel first aid kit. Some plasters, wipes, medical tape and so on.
I am sure that I have a few other things in the glove box, but these are the things that I always make sure that I have.
I am not encouraging you to make use of any of these things. The safest thing to do is to call for help I am sure. However, sometimes you can help yourself more quickly if you get some advice over the phone and have the right things to hand. Warm clothes, food and medication are always good to have in case you have to wait a while for help to come.
You can buy kits in car centres that have a lot of these things in, but you will still need to add clothes and medication and so on. Check in case the country where you live requires you to carry anything extra in your car. I know for example that in France you must have a breathalyser and in America you must have your car insurance details. Add in anything you are required to have.
Oh, and one other thing. My Hubby and I mostly drive alone in our own cars, but if we travel together in winter we grab the box from our car that has the extra winter things in it and put it in the others car so that we each have a coat, shoes, snacks and so on.
In summary, here is what I keep in my car - in case you want to print it off for reference.
To keep in your car all year round
Mobile (cell) phone and charger - and make sure you have some credit if your phone is pay as you go
Your breakdown cover details
Torch and spare batteries
A notebook and pen
Snips to remove cable ties holding your hubcaps on
Jack and wheelbrace and spare tyre
High visibility and reflective vest
Disposable gloves, paper towel, tissues
Jump leads - only use them if you know how to do so
Groundsheet or plastic sheet of some kind
An old cloth to wipe things
Medication and personal hygiene items
First aid kit
Things to add in the winter
If you know the weather is bad and you have to go out take a flask with a hot drink, tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to arrive.
Snacks and a bottle of water
Spare coat, gloves, hat, scarf and thick socks
A stout pair of boots for walking in - probably a good thing to have all year round actually.
Snow shovel - or other folding shovel
Brush to remove snow
Ice scraper and deicer spray
These lists are not exhaustive and may not work for all parts of the world. So over to you, what would you add to your car to keep you safe?
I hope that these lists and any suggestions below will be of use to you and help to keep you safe this winter. The most important things are to drive carefully, watch the weather, only travel if necessary and in the first instance to call for help.