As another cold winter season closes in on Canadian drivers, it’s time to make sure you and your car are well prepared for the snowy roads ahead. Following these simple steps will ensure your car is winter ready and able to tackle extreme weather conditions before the first snow flake even hits the ground.
Check out these tips to prepare for winter driving:
Winterize Your Car
Switch to snow tires: Winter tires are designed to improve performance and traction, not just on snow and ice, but also on cold, dry pavement. Even if you drive an SUV or live where the streets are cleared of snow regularly, installing winter tires will improve surface grip in every type of road condition as temperatures start to fall. Winter tires also help your car brake more efficiently in conditions with heavy snow and ice by constantly clearing themselves of snow as they roll, which allows for more consistent grip. Even though all-season tires can provide safe all-weather performance, winter tires offer up to 50% or more winter traction than all-seasons.
Change your oil: Cold weather driving is hard on a vehicle, especially at start-up. To minimize winter wear and tear on your engine, the right choice of motor oil is key.
Be sure to change your oil on time at proper intervals and remember to use the suggested viscosity rating to reflect the colder conditions of the winter season. Using the wrong motor oil can leave your engine poorly protected, as oil tends to thicken in colder climates and may lead to a lack of vital engine lubrication. Check your owner’s manual for suggestions on which oil to use in different climates and temperatures
Vital visibility: Poor visibility and difficult driving conditions can happen when you least expect it. For maximum visibility, check and change your windshield wipers before they start to scrape and scratch their way across the glass. Investing in winter-specific wiper blades can also be an inexpensive way to keep yourself from struggling to see through any snow storm. Also, remember to fill up on windshield washer fluid and check that your front and rear defrosters are in working order to provide a clear view of the road.
Battery basics: Check your car battery to make sure its posts and connections are clean and corrosion-free to ensure the best trouble-free performance. The average life of a car battery in Canada is just under 5 years. If your battery is more than 3 years old, get it tested annually and if it's more than 5 years old, consider getting a replacement. Cold weather weakens batteries and can leave you and your car stranded in the middle of a blizzard. Remember to carry a handy set of jumper cables just in case you or another driver in distress requires a boost to jump-start a vehicle.
Check your tire pressure: Proper tire inflation is a simple way to get the best traction and fuel mileage out of your vehicle. Cold weather can cause tire pressure to change by as much as 1 psi (pounds per square inch) either up or down for every 5.6°C (10°F) shift in temperature. A severe change in tire pressure can affect driving performance and safety along with increased tire wear and additional fuel consumption. Make sure your tires are properly inflated to match the recommended pressure stated in your owner’s manual.
Lighting system check: Inspecting your headlights, taillights and turn signals allows you to see and be seen by fellow drivers in any weather condition. Always ensure they are all in working order and promptly replace any burnt out bulbs in pairs to ensure optimal safety performance. Many of today’s plastic headlights can fade or cloud up over time and using an inexpensive headlight restoration kit can rejuvenate and repair them back to their crystal clear condition.
Antifreeze fluids: Just like it sounds, antifreeze is an essential part of proper winter protection. This is the liquid found inside of your radiator and should contain an ideal 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water. You can use an inexpensive antifreeze tester or ask your trusted mechanic to make sure the fluid level is full and the mixture is correct to avoid freezing. You should also perform a regular radiator fluid flush as suggested in your owner’s manual. In addition, using gas-line antifreeze will help prevent fuel from freezing inside your gas tank and avoid fuel line blockage in ice cold conditions.
Winter tune-up / inspection: Winter weather can take a toll on your car’s performance. It’s always a good idea to inspect your spark plugs, brakes, steering and suspension each season to avoid costly repairs and unexpected problems in the cold. Be sure to pay very close attention to vital belts and hoses, as sudden temperature changes can do a number on these critical rubber parts over the years and may require replacement.
Be prepared: Having an emergency kit in your vehicle could save your life if you find yourself and other drivers stuck or stranded in the snow. It’s a good idea to keep a winter survival kit in your vehicle for many reasons. Being prepared with the proper equipment increases roadside safety and having essential supplies can provide some comfort and safety for you and your passengers should you become stranded. Check online for the recommended items to include in your winter emergency kit.
Driver training: It’s always a good idea to take a professional winter driving or defensive driving course to sharpen your skills behind the wheel. Winter driver training courses are designed to help you learn to control your vehicle and understand how it will react in emergency situations in poor weather conditions. Knowing the right techniques to respond to winter road conditions and driving situations is important – but don’t wait until an emergency to figure them out.