How to avoid a winter car breakdown

Driving in the winter has unique challenges. The cold and wet weather means you need to prepare your vehicle and adjust your driving style. Paying attention to your tyres, battery, and other essentials on your car helps prevent winter-related breakdowns. From replacing old batteries to topping up your windscreen washer fluid with a cold weather product, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk of a breakdown during the upcoming winter.


Many breakdowns in the winter are due to flat batteries. Cold and damp weather puts added strain on your vehicle’s battery and electrical systems. This can make starting your engine on a cold morning difficult. The colder temperatures are especially unkind on older and weaker batteries. These batteries already have reduced performance and the cold only makes their ability to hold a charge even harder. To avoid a breakdown due to a dead battery, it is wise to replace older and weaker batteries before the full force of winter is felt.


You should check your vehicle’s systems that are designed to handle the elements during colder months, including looking at the cooling system and confirming that there is enough anti-freeze to keep your engine’s cooling system from freezing. A frozen or cracked engine due to the cold will cost hundreds of pounds to repair. The cold weather can also freeze your vehicle’s water pump and radiator. Before buying anti-freeze, check your vehicle’s manual to see what is the right type for your car. Your manual will also tell you how often you should replace the anti-freeze.

Windscreen and Wipers

Ice, snow and frost can scratch and crack your windscreen, so it is important to keep your wipers and windscreen free of ice. If the blades of your wipers are frozen, they could scratch the screen when you use them. Similarly, blades might get damaged if they are frozen to the screen and you try to remove them forcefully. Checks if your windscreen wipers and replace them if they are worn or damaged. Using anti-freeze helps melt the ice from frozen wipers and makes it easier for you to wipe away ice from the screen with a scraper. Never use hot water to clear ice since it can crack the windscreen. You should also buy cold weather washer fluid, which is formulated to deal with cold temperatures. Regular washer fluid may freeze and is not as effective in the winter. Having wipers that are in good working order and cold weather washer fluid will ensure your wipers can clear ice, which can damage the glass and affect your visibility.


Winter days are shorter, so it is important to have lights that are working properly. Headlights should be used when there is reduced visibility, including during a snow fall. Check that your vehicle’s interior and exterior lights are all working and replace any lights that are dim as soon as possible. This will avoid you getting stuck in a snow or ice storm without headlights or indicators, which will keep you and other road users safe. Lenses should be cleaned regularly to enhance your visibility and help other drivers and road users see your vehicle.


The condition of your tyres affects your ability to drive safely in winter condition, especially when roads are wet and icy. That is why you need to check the tread depth and tyre pressure regularly throughout the winter. Good tread depth will allow your tyre to disperse more water from the road, which will minimise the risk of skidding or losing control. Although the legal thread depth is 1.6 millimetres, the AA recommends keeping it at 3 millimetres for the winter to ensure optimal performance. Investing in winter tyres of all-season tyres will keep you and your vehicle safer since they are made from rubber that provides better grip in cold and wet conditions.


Constant freezing and thawing during the winter as well as regular condensation can wreak havoc on your vehicle’s electrics. Water accumulates through the winter in places that normally never see moisture during warmer months. If your vehicle’s seals are worn or damaged, water can get into electrical systems. This can result in engine misfires, faulty electric windows and door locks, and other issues. You may want to waterproof certain systems or have a professional look at your car to identify any potential issues.

Final Thoughts

It is important to pay attention to your car and look out for signs of problems before they lead to a breakdown. If you hear loud knocking or rattling noises from inside the engine, the engine’s oil might need a top-up. Stuttering could mean your spark plugs or spark plug leads need to be replaced, while an engine hesitating during acceleration could be a fuel system issue. Intermittent knocking or droning sounds could be a worn wheel bearing and flaring engine revs may mean an issue with the clutch. If your vehicle is pulling to one side or the brake pedal sticks, there might be a problem with your brakes.

Winter driving will only further stress an engine with a low oil level, worn brakes, a slipping clutch, or many other issues. A breakdown on a cold, snowy night or on icy roads during a snowstorm could be costly and potentially life-threatening. If you suspect that your vehicle is not performing as it should, visit a garage for an inspection before winter starts. Catching problems before a breakdown could help save you money and avoid a breakdown this winter.