We’re getting set for a long hard winter full of frost, fog, snow, flood or gale. At Sterling Insurance, we usually receive about 50 breakdown calls a day, but during periods of extremely bad weather, this has been known to rise to more than double that figure. We’ll be checking the Met Office’s long range weather forecast to find out what to expect, but in the meantime, we’ve come up with eight tips on how to prepare your car for winter, reduce the risk of a fail-to-start or breakdown, and help you stay safe. 1. Faulty tyres are a major cause of breakdown Problems with tyres are a major cause of breakdown. Check them all for tread depth and pressure – and don’t forget the spare. It is not only snow that causes dangerous driving conditions. Roads can be icy and especially greasy in the winter with the effects of mud, water and salt. Check the tyre walls too for gouges and bulges, and the tread depth should be at least 3mm. If you live in an exposed or rural area, you might want to consider investing in a set of winter tyres. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels. 2. Top up your antifreeze Check and top up or replace the antifreeze in the radiator. The job will only take a few minutes but it could save you hundreds of pounds in repairs should you freeze up and breakdown. While you’re at it, replenish the windscreen washer reservoir. You don’t have to wait for the warning light to illuminate on your dashboard! 3. Make sure you can see Roads get mucky in winter with mud and slush, which means windows can become smeared and lights covered in dirt. It takes seconds to run a rag over them before you set off but it could be a life saver. If your window is iced up make sure you clear it thoroughly. Don’t be the one driving along the road while peering through a letterbox-shaped clearing in the ice or snow-covered windscreen. If your windows are misted on the inside, run the engine with the heater on until they clear. It is not only foolish and dangerous to drive if your vision is restricted, it is against the law too. The law states: “All glass or other transparent material fitted to a motor vehicle shall be maintained in such condition that it does not obscure the vision of the driver while the vehicle is being driven on a road.”If you were to be stopped by the Police or have an accident, as a result of having a dirty windscreen, then you could be fined and charged for careless driving. Punishments for careless driving range from an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three penalty points. However, if your case was to go to court then you could see that fine increase to £5,000 and receive up to nine penalty points. Photo by Lisa from Pexels. 4. Always be prepared in the winter The things you use to unfreeze your car in the morning should travel with you. Leaving the de-icer and ice scraper at home won’t help you at 5pm when you discover your car is frozen solid again. And take that gear into your home or workplace with you as in periods of extreme weather you can get frozen out of your car. That’s no good if your scraper and de-icer are locked inside. 5. Prevent breakdown by booking a winter service A winter service will pinpoint mechanical problems before they become serious issues. The winter service will concentrate on six main areas of care for your car: Tyre inspectionBattery testCoolant and antifreezeWindscreen wiper efficiencyLights checkOil and other lubricants 6. Adjust your driving technique In extreme weather, your driving style needs to change. Stopping distances can be ten times greater in snow or ice. You should apply the brakes gently with no sudden movements. Pulling away from snowy or icy junctions may be easier in second gear and lower revs will help prevent wheel spin. If your car does begin to slide, don’t panic – ease off the accelerator and steer into the direction the car is skidding. Keep your foot off the brake as this could lock them further. Patience and common sense are vital when it comes to driving in bad winter weather. 7. Stay safe in the event of a breakdown If the worst comes to the worst and you do breakdown, ensure you and your passengers are in a safe place. Do not leave your bonnet open as you wait for the recovery vehicle, as an engine bay full of snow or rain will only add to the problem. Read our blog on Why you should think WHEELS when you breakdown for a guide on what to do. 8. Consider taking out quality breakdown insurance Sterling breakdown cover is available from £25.42 a year. You can arrange Roadside Recovery or the reliable Home Start service, whether your vehicle breaks down in the UK, Europe or further afield. For motorists who need a breakdown service in an emergency, Sterling’s instant cover provides immediate help. Prices for instant breakdown insurance start from £173.60 for cars and motorbikes and £190.40 for vans, Consider instant breakdown cover in an emergency Of course, it makes sense to plan ahead, but sometimes you don’t think about breakdown insurance until it’s too late. Sterling instant breakdown cover is excellent value, and it is valid as soon as your policy is issued, within minutes of your call. Breakdown operators in the UK tend to have an exclusion timeframe of between 24 and 72 hours from the policy start date. In that time no recovery claim can be made until the policy has been running for up to three days. That’s not the case with Sterling, meaning you can be back on the road quicker than ever. If you breakdown and you have no cover, call 0344 381 9959 to take out an instant breakdown policy. Then call Sterling Rescue who will dispatch a recovery service team to fix your vehicle or organise your onward travel. As a multi trip policy, it will provide you with cover for a whole year. Why choose Sterling for instant breakdown cover? Instant breakdown insurance cover includes roadside assistance and recovery and Home Start services anywhere in the UK. Sterling can also arrange recovery and transport to a local garage or home address within 20 miles of the breakdown if they cannot solve your problems at the roadside. Sterling Rescue can call on a network of 1,800 breakdown recovery specialists and local garages providing total UK coverage. Trained staff are equipped with the most up to date mapping technology to provide a fast and efficient service when you need it most.