Winter Driving Tips

Winter has arrived in Northern Ireland and some of us are due some snow and ice, according to Barra Best! Here are some handy hints and tips for taking care of you and your car while navigating the M1 or M2 or the country roads on your way home from work in the wintry weather.


Here are some simple vehicle checks that you can carry out yourself our have us check:

  • Wipers - Make sure your wipers are in good condition and if they’re worn it’s a good time to renew them.
  • Windscreen - Keep your windscreen clean inside and out for maximum visibility and to reduce dazzle from the low sun.
  • Screen wash - Use a 50% mix of a good quality screen wash to reduce the chance of freezing in frosty weather.
  • Antifreeze - Check your coolant level regularly and where necessary top-up with a mixture of the correct type of antifreeze. (We can check the concentration to ensure adequate cold temperature protection).​
  • Battery - Avoid the most common cause of breakdowns by getting your battery checked and replaced if necessary. If it is more than 5 years old it may struggle in the cold weather.

  • Fuel - Keep at least a quarter of a tank in case of any unexpected delays.

  • Lights - Check and clean all your lights regularly so you can see and be seen clearly. It’s a good idea to carry spare bulbs.
  • Tyres - Check your tyres for wear. They should have at least 3mm of tread for winter driving. You may want to consider winter tyres for improved safety. Check your tyre pressures at least every fortnight.
  • Locks and door seals - Stop your car doors from freezing shut with a thin coat of polish or Vaseline on rubber door seals. TIP: A squirt of WD-40 in locks will help stop them freezing and if they do, try a cigarette lighter!


Before setting off:

  • Give yourself at least an extra 10 minutes to prepare your car.
  • Make sure your windows and mirrors are completely clear by using a scraper and de-icer.
  • Don’t drive off with a tiny space cleared on the windscreen which you have to peer through.
  • Use your air conditioning for faster demisting and to reduce condensation on cold windows.
  • If it has been snowing remember to clear your lights – front and back – all glass, and roof.
  • ​Tip: to unfreeze a door lock, use a cigarette lighter to warm the key. 

  • ​Drive on major roads which are more likely to have been cleared and gritted instead of the smaller country roads.
  • Allow extra time for your journey and be prepared for being late for work due to unexpected delays. 
  • Remember to use your headlights when visibility is reduced.  Use fog lights when necessary but remember to switch them off when visibility improves to avoid dazzling other drivers.


Make sure you and your passengers are prepared for the journey by making sure you have the following essentials in the car with you:

  • Fully-charged mobile phone and in-car charger
  • Sunglasses – to deal with glare from the sun or snow, not for looking cool
  • Personal medication
  • First aid kit
  • Warm winter coat, scarf, hat, gloves and warm clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Sturdy footwear
  • Flask of hot drink - especially if heading home from work up the M1 or M2 in or out of Belfast! It might take a while if there's snow or ice about.
  • And if travelling with children remember extra clothing, food and drinks. And remember extra nappies, bottles if using, clothes, blankets and all the other paraphernalia if travelling with a baby!


It’s a good idea to think about keeping a Winter Emergency Kit in the car over winter which could contain:

  • Blanket, rug or sleeping bag
  • Shovel
  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • Torch and batteries
  • Snacks – chocolate or cereal bars
  • Extra screen wash


    Some helpful tips for driving in rain, snow and ice:

    • Drive and monoeuvre gently – this is key to safe driving
    • Increase your stopping distance
    • Make sure your shoes are comfortable and suitable for driving – dry shoes won’t slip on the pedals.
    • Avoid wheel spins by driving off gently in 2nd gear (in snow or ice), easing your foot off the clutch.
    • Driving up hill – leave plenty of room between you and the car in front to avoid stopping part-way up. Keep your speed constant and choose the most suitable gear so you don’t have to change on the hill.
    • Driving down hill – select a low gear and reduce your speed before the hill. Try to use engine braking as much as possible – use brakes sparingly but if you have to use them apply them gently. Always remember to leave as much room as possible between you and the car in front.
    • If you get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put a car mat or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip. Once on the move again, try not to stop until you reach firmer ground.