Winter breakdown tips

 Published 29th November 2022
Driver Guides  General Guides 

It may be hard to believe after the warmest November on record when our gardens have decided to enjoy an extended autumn, that we are now actually in winter. Despite the unseasonably warm weather the days are still shortening and the average drive is still taking place while the sun is elsewhere. Which is why it's still worth thinking about what you should do if you break down at the side of the road during winter driving.

Four-time Which? Recommended Provider, Start Rescue, is sharing some insights for those unfortunate enough to suffer a breakdown or emergency this winter.

Lee Puffett, Managing Director at Start Rescue, said: “Breakdown recovery apps remain the best way to report a problem, however, motorists who are without cover or don't have mobile or internet service should be aware of the other ways to effectively highlight their location. Start Rescue understands that breakdown scenarios are unpleasant and stranded motorists want to spend the shortest possible amount of time at the side of the road. We would like to recommend to motorists that making themselves even more identifiable will hugely aid their rescue.”

Besides common winter breakdown advice, such as wearing hi-vis vests, standing in a safe location, packing emergency food and carrying blankets, some people might forget that there are other actions which can be very effective.

If you can't use one of the breakdown services apps to report your position and track your recovery waiting time, there are plenty of other ways to communicate your position and increase visibility following a winter breakdown.

For example, driver location posts are positioned along the hard shoulder of motorways and A-roads and can be used by anyone to describe an exact location to the emergency services. The nearest post should only be a few mins walk away from wherever you happened to break down and it should be pretty easy for a recovery service to find you very quickly from that distance.

The most common type of these signs are the distance marker posts that appear on motorways across the UK. These are the short, white signs with red reflectors and a blue strip that includes two lines of numbers, installed every 100-metres. The top line of numbers explains the distance along the motorway in kilometres (km) from a given location which the emergency services will be aware of, while the lower line shows the tenths of kilometre. The marker posts' shorter side also provides a directional arrow with an image to inform of the nearest emergency roadside telephone.

In England, more visible rectangular blue signs also appear on poles along the hard shoulder of motorways and some A-roads, positioned every 500-metres (550-yards). These signs display three pieces of information. The first line shows the road identifier, which states the motorway or A-road, for example, M25 or A1. The second line contains the carriageway direction identifier letter - usually “A” or “B” depending on whether you're heading “away from” or “back to” London, because according to Dick Whittington that's where all roads lead. Location numbers appear on the third line and these increase in the direction of travel along the "A" carriageway or decrease in the direction of travel along the "B" carriageway. With those three bits of information a breakdown recovery service will not only know where you are to within a few hundred metres but also which side of the road you're stuck on.


How to make yourself visible to rescue services at a break down


  • Wipe down dirty number plates on vehicles that are affected by winter grime.

  • Regularly clean all lights so that your vehicle can see and be seen.

  • Keep vehicle bodywork clean as reflective cars are easier to spot than dirty ones.

  • Placing a hi-vis vest in the back window increases visibility at the side of the road.

  • State any local landmarks as this can help local recovery services find you easily.

  • State any identifiable vehicle features such as a roof box or a bike rack so you're easier to identify.

  • Use What3Words to accurately find and report your exact location.

  • Obviously, we hope you enjoy a trouble-free winter's motoring, but it's useful to know what you can do to speed up recovery should the worst happen while you're out and about.



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