James Walker: Cold snap doesn’t have to catch you napping

Every year, the UK gets a dusting of snow and carnage ensues. I loved the snow when I was younger. But you can tell how you’re ageing by how much it begins to annoy you.
Don't let the ice distract youDon't let the ice distract you
Don't let the ice distract you

There’s not much you can do about a snap of cold weather, but here are a few tips to help you avoid some of the common problems we see at Resolver when the mercury plummets.

Warm your pipes. At this time of year we crank up the heating and hope it holds out till spring. But if you’ve been frugal, have an old house or just get unlucky, you might find that your pipes have cracked or become blocked – or the dreaded boiler packs in. Don’t get me started on boilers (check out my previous columns on rubbish boiler insurance) – but having some cash available for emergency callouts is essential at this time of year.

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If you’ve been affected, check your home insurance first. You may have some emergency cover for burst pipes or boilers. You can avoid problems by easing up the heating by a notch or two first and bleeding radiators. If you’re going to be away, speak to your home insurer too – they may have some requirements about having the heating on a timer during the winter months.

Keys in the car. It’s a cold morning and the car has frosted up. You’re tired and running late and your coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. You’re looking at 15 minutes of ice scraping and warming up the vehicle. So you pop outside, slip the keys in the ignition and leave the engine running while you head inside to keep warm. Only to hear the sound of your car being driven off…

Every winter “keys in car” thefts occur outside the home, shops, post boxes, by cash machines, even at petrol stations. And when it comes to making an insurance claim, you might find you get a frosty response. All isn’t lost though. While most insurers include clauses in their contracts about leaving your car unattended with the keys in (or even open) you can still appeal if your claim is turned down.

If you’ve left the car unattended on the road, your case is shaky, but if it’s on your driveway, it’s by no means straightforward. Factors like whether you have a gate, if your driveway is visible and how close you were to your car can all help you stand a better chance when it comes to making a claim. As soon as you’ve reported the matter to the police, note down as much as you can about what happened. I can’t say it enough: the more information you give, the better your chance of winning.

Bumps and scrapes. It won’t surprise you to learn that frosty weather always results in insurance claims going through the roof. If you have a bump – or worse – your insurer will be taking a much closer look at what went wrong. So keep your distance and drive carefully. If you hit black ice, the experts recommend taking your foot off the accelerator, not braking and gently guiding the steering wheel in the direction you want to go.

I get loads of people contacting me about no claims bonuses after winter crashes. What can be particularly annoying is if you mention a claimable incident to your insurer but opt not to claim. The fact that an accident has occurred makes you more of a risk in the eyes of the insurer so this can have an impact on your no claims bonus.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk