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Breakdowns are very common in winter when the road conditions can be very challenging, especially when ice and snow start to appear. Here's how to keep safe:

No matter how well prepared your own car is, if a lorry crashes in front of you, you will be stuck with everyone else so if you're driving, make sure you have a winter emergency kit because you never know. 

Electrics and batteries

Car batteries don't last longer than five years (in general), and there are many extra demands on them in the winter, thanks to heating, wipers and lights. 

  • Turn off electrical loads like heated rear window and wipers before turning the key to start the engine. 
  • Use the starter in short five-second quick bursts.
  • If the engine doesn't start, wait 30 seconds and then give it another go. 
  • If you don't use your car often, put it on an overnight trickle charge. 


Anti-freeze is very cheap, but a frozen and cracked engine costs many hundreds of your hard-earned pounds to repair. You need a 50% 50% mix of anti-freeze and water for the winter – this protects your engine down to around -30C. Modern vehicles use long-life anti-freeze. Some types of anti-freeze need changing after only a couple of years. Check the schedule of your service. 


If you hear a squealing noise when you start up the engine this means the water pumps is probably frozen solid - it's the fan belt slipping on the pulley. Stop the engine immediately and let it thaw out. This could take days unless you can move it into a heated garage. If your car overheats after a few miles, it's likely that the radiator has frozen solid.  Stop straight away so you don’t cause more severe damage to your car and consult your garage mechanic.