Best winter car kit
Now is the time to get you and your car prepared for the colder months ahead. Here are the eight items that we think are essentials
Winter will take its toll on you and your car. The colder, wetter weather and longer hours of darkness mean you are going to have to concentrate harder while driving. Your car, meanwhile, will use more fuel, and harsh salt on the roads will accelerate corrosion.
There are ways of making sure your car is ready for winter and preparing it for the freezing weather ahead. These will ensure you stay safe and aren’t stranded in the cold.
Most drivers will have an ice scraper and can of de-icer already, but now is the time to dig them out from the shed so you’re not left using a credit card to clear the screen when caught out while away from home.
Beyond the basics, there are other accessories which we think will make life easier for you and your car this winter. Here are our eight essentials.
- Price: around £25
- Contact: wiperblades.co.uk
We take the two thin strips of rubber that keep our vision clear completely for granted. They are expected to provide smear-free cleaning in the coldest, wettest weather.
Because they tend to wear slowly, you might not even notice they are worn. However, upgrading them for new blades every 18 months or so will make a real difference to your visibility and ensure that driving in dark, rainy conditions is much less stressful.
Our tests include putting the blades in a freezer overnight to ensure they stay supple in cold weather, and the Bosch Aerotwin came out on top.
- Price: around £30
- Contact: ringautomotive.com
Many modern cars will have sophisticated LED headlamps, which have taken over from the equally bright xenon lights, which were popular on upmarket models a decade ago. But drivers of older and less expensive vehicles will still have to put up with the traditional halogen bulbs on at least some of their forward-facing lights.
Upgrading the headlamps will make a real difference, because all of the products in our test claimed to offer 200 per cent more light than standard bulbs That will make driving on dark country lanes much easier and safer.
Our award winner was the Ring Xenon200, which showed good all-round performance across our tests.
Warning triangles and lights
Powerlantz Car Emergency Light Breakdown Kit
- Price: around £20
- Contact: amazon.co.uk
If you break down at any time of year, it may put you and other road users at risk. But the danger is even greater in the dark and gloomy winter months.
Warning triangles are a legal requirement in many countries and lots of British motorists carry them too, so they can alert approaching traffic that there is a stranded vehicle ahead.
Our favourite breakdown warning devices go one stage further, adding flashing lights to make them even more visible. The test-winning Powerlantz also has a bright work light, so it can help you fix problems by the roadside.
- Price: around £15
- Volume: 400ml
- Contact: muc-off.com
Salt applied to the roads in winter rapidly accelerates corrosion on a car, and parts that are out of sight can develop a coating of rust surprisingly quickly.
To keep it away, choose a dry day and give vulnerable parts of your car, such as the wheelarches, a quick blast with a pressure washer. Wait until everything has dried and then carefully apply a specialist coating to parts that might be starting to look rusty. Just be careful to avoid the brake components and exhaust.
We tested Muc-Off’s HCB-1 and it did a good job of warding off corrosion for several weeks, or Ferrosol’s UB products will provide longer-term protection.
Prestone Extreme Performance Screen Wash
- Price: Around £5
- Contact: holtsauto.com
Salty roads create a fine spray of grime that will quickly coat your windscreen. Using the wipers alone will just create smears; combine that with a winter sun that is low down in the sky and it can be a real hazard when driving.
You don’t want to find out your washer jets have frozen when you are doing 60mph either, so make sure your screenwash has been upgraded for the cold weather and that you have ‘primed’ the pipes with the new fluid.
You might need to do a few quick sums before you buy, because some pre-mixed formulas could make better financial sense than the concentrates at winter levels of dilution.
Clarke JSM300 Micro Jump Start and Power Pack
- Price: Around £80
- Contact: clarketooling.co.uk
Compared with the hassle of asking a passer-by to give you a jump start or calling a breakdown truck, using a mini jump starter pack will prove a revelation. These compact boxes are no bigger than a microwave ready meal, yet they will provide multiple jump starts to a car with a flat battery.
Most will also double up as a USB charge pack, which could make them invaluable if you are stuck somewhere remote with a flat smartphone battery.
Our favourite in recent tests was the Clarke JSM300, which performed well in the vehicle jump start assessments, but also included a variety of adaptors to power other accessories.
Wallace Cameron Foil Blankets
- Price: around £5 (for six)
- Contact: screwfix.com
You may have seen these space-age blankets being used after sport events to keep athletes warm. They are gossamer thin, but the silvered coating means the blankets have the insulating properties of a thick fabric. They are also waterproof and will protect you from the sun and UV rays in summer, too.
We found them on sale for less than £1 each and they take up minimal space, so there is no excuse for not keeping at least one in the glovebox.
If you are forced to abandon your car on a motorway in freezing rain, having these on hand could be a real benefit for you and your family.
Continental WinterContact TS 870
- Price: around £119 (205/55R16)
- Contact: blackcircles.com
Any driver who has been stranded in the snow, or had a ‘moment’ when driving through standing water, will know how crucial tyres are in winter.
If you live in areas where the temperatures regularly plunge, it might be worth choosing dedicated winter tyres. These are a legal requirement in some European countries, because they make such a difference to safety in the colder months.
Our best buy is the Continental WinterContact TS 870. All-weather tyres offer a good compromise for drivers who don’t want the trouble or expense of changing their car’s wheels twice a year.
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