Tips for safe driving in winter: part 2

Engine coolant receptical tank.

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 27 February 2024

In this blog, we'll look at how to make sure your car runs smoothly in cold weather. Includes advice on tyre tread depth and using antifreeze and screenwash.

Hello and welcome to the second post in our ‘winter driving’ series.

Today, we’re going to look at what you can do to make sure your car runs smoothly in cold weather.

Antifreeze …

Antifreeze is pretty essential stuff. Why? Well, it prevents the water in your engine’s cooling system from freezing. If the water did freeze, you’d be left with a very nasty bill for a new radiator (and maybe a new engine!). It’d also be pretty embarrassing having to tell the recovery driver what happened.

Fortunately, that need never happen. Simply pop along to your local garage or car-parts store and pick up a bottle of this magic liquid – but make sure you get the right kind for your vehicle. Antifreeze comes in various formulas, and these should not be mixed with each other. Your vehicle handbook will tell you what type of antifreeze you need, and the correct ratio of water and antifreeze to put in your radiator. (You can also buy ready-mixed antifreeze for greater convenience.)

You’ll find the ‘coolant reservoir’ under the bonnet – but, again, check your handbook for the exact location. Once you have a bottle of correctly mixed antifreeze, pour it into the reservoir, up to (and no higher than) the ‘maximum’ level marking.

Top tips

  • If your vehicle has power steering, make sure you do not pour the antifreeze into the power-steering fluid reservoir!
  • Check your coolant as part of your regular checks. If you notice that the level in the reservoir has dropped suddenly, speak to someone at your garage.

Tyre tread depth …

In winter, you need as much tread on your tyres* as you can possibly get. Use a tread-depth gauge to make regular checks right the way around the circumference of the tyre.

Although the legal limit is 1.6 mm, in snowy and icy conditions it makes sense to consider changing your tyres when the depth gets down to between 2.5 and 3 mm. You could also consider winter tyres. (Read this article for more information, or speak to a professional tyre fitter.)

Screening for problems

Just like the fluid in your coolant system, the fluid in your screenwash bottle can freeze up and cause problems in the washer nozzles. The way round this is to use the right concentration of screenwash to water. Again, you can buy ready-to-use bottles that avoid all that fussy mixing, but make sure this is the right solution for your vehicle.

One thing you really should avoid is trying to bend the rules by pouring washing-up liquid into your screenwashing system. It will not be effective in low temperatures (screenwash also contains antifreeze) and it’ll create lots of bubbles, but not much else.

From snowflakes to car brakes …

Hopefully, this post has given you some useful information to take away and put into practice. If you cannot wait for part 3, then consider popping over to the Safe Driving for Life shop and picking up a copy of The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills. It’s packed full of advice on all-weather driving and basic maintenance, which makes it the perfect companion for drivers of all ages.

Back to top