Preparing your van for Autumn and Winter

Fleet of vans
In the UK there’s nothing quite as predictable as unpredictable weather. Summer often feels like Spring and Autumn often feels like winter, so much so that it’s easy to get caught out by changing road conditions and shifting temperatures.

There’s no time of year when that’s more visible than in autumn, when Baltic mornings can be followed by sun drenched afternoons – so with that in mind, we’ve put together an Autumn van survival kit to make sure you don’t fall foul of the weather.

Did you know? Autumn is the most dangerous season to be on the road in the UK with almost one third of all incidents taking place in September, October and November, according to the Department for Transport.

Essentials for safe autumn driving

As autumn hits so does a drop in temperature, so it’s essential that you’re prepared for cold snaps by making sure you’ve got the right gear to deal with frost, ice and glare.

  • Ice scraper

A proper ice scraper can save you a few minutes of time on a cold autumn morning and also save you from snapping your credit card, or worse – cracking your windscreen by using boiling water.

Ice scrapers are pretty cheap (you can get them for as little as £1) and you can even get one with a waterproof mitt to keep your hands warm and dry while you’re scraping away.

  • De-icer

Combine a de-icer with a scraper and you’re onto a winner. They’re cheap too, and you’ll be able to get your hands on a bottle of de-icer for less than a fiver.

  • Demister pad or cloth

A demister pad or cloth is a useful piece of kit in autumn, particularly when the sun is low and you’ve had to clear your windscreen. It can help clear your windscreen and increase visibility.

  • Sunglasses

Our first four essentials are all to do with keeping your windscreen clear and improving your vision while you’re on the road, something that’s vital when the sun sits lower in the sky.

Sunglasses are another useful item when you’re driving in autumn, for obvious reasons. Keep a pair in your car to help combat glare caused by the autumn sun.

Van parked against wall

Be seen

As well as making sure your vision is as good as it can be, it’s important to make sure other road users can see you, too.

You should always check that your bulbs are in full working order all year round but when autumn and winter descend, it’s even more vital.

Make sure your headlights and brake lights are working well, along with your indicator lights and number plate lights.

Antifreeze for your engine

Antifreeze plays an important role in your engine all year round, preventing corrosion and keeping things cool when it’s hot.

When the cold weather appears, the role of antifreeze changes slightly – it prevents the inner workings of your engine from freezing up.

You can get a mechanic to check your antifreeze levels if you’re worried about being caught short, although this is included of a standard service which should keep you topped up all year round.

Your tyres and road conditions

Your tyres are the only points of contact with the roads you’re driving on, so they’re very important when it comes to your safety on the road.

In autumn, when trees drop their leaves on the road, there’s lots more rain around and the potential for icy conditions is increased, so your tyres need to work harder to keep you and your van where you want to be on the road.

Hands gripping steering wheel

The minimum legal requirement for tyre tread depth is 1.6 millimetres in a continuous band around the middle three quarters of your tyre. However road safety experts recommend changing your tyres when tread depth hits 3 millimetres because stopping distances are much shorted with that extra 1.4mm of tread.

You should be aware of your tyre tread depth all year round and preferably change your tyres at 3mm however, in autumn when wet leaves and ice are common on the road, traction is reduced, so it’s even more important to make sure your tyres are in good condition.

As well as keeping an eye on your tread depth, you should also be vigilant when it comes to wet leaves and ice on the road. Spotting these hazards as early as possible and tailoring your driving to the conditions is vital to safe driving.

If you can’t avoid wet leaves or ice, you should reduce your speed as you pass over them, giving you more time to react to their impact. You should also avoid accelerating or braking on wet leaves or ice if possible.

The other issue with leaves on the road is that it’s almost impossible to know what’s beneath them. They can cover potholes and other road debris, which could have the potential to damage your car and cause issues while driving.

Anything else to consider?

The main issue with driving in autumn is the changeable weather and the road conditions it creates.

In autumn, frost and ice can give way to bright sunshine and showers in a matter of hours, so preparing for different types of weather and resultant road conditions can be tough.

That’s why it’s important to prepare your van for the most changeable season in the calendar.

Next page: Should you buy a dashcam?