Winter is here but that doesn’t stop Canadians from getting out and about on the road and one of the most important responsibilities that a vehicle owner has is to ensure your car is winter-ready. We’ve compiled a list of tips to follow to ensure you and your vehicle can stay safe on the road.
#1: Ensure you have functional windshield wipers
Did you know your windshield wipers begin losing performance and power after just six months of use? That’s why experts recommend that you replace your wipers frequently, based on the manufacturers recommendation. It’s also important to ensure that your windshield-washer fluid is full before getting on the road and that you keep a spare jug in your trunk. Remember to purchase windshield washer fluid that is specifically made for cold temperatures, as it includes anti-freeze properties.
#2: Check your battery
It’s vital that you ensure your battery is in good working order prior to the winter. You can get it tested professionally at most car service stations where they can inform you if the battery has a full charge, if its fluid is low and if it should be replaced.
On average, a car battery can last approximately three to five years. However, cold temperatures reduce the power of batteries and as the Canadian climate can be incredibly cold, the lasting power of your battery may be slightly less than average if you drive a lot in the winter months. For example, at 0°C, a battery only has half the power that it has at 20°C.
If you’re driving less frequently during the winter, you should start your car or better yet, drive it somewhere local at least once per week, to ensure it is running properly.
#3: Never let your gas tank be less than half-full
Did you know that a temperature drop can cause an empty or near empty gas tank to freeze? This happens when condensation that forms on the walls of your gas tank freezes, which then causes the remainder of your tank to freeze. If you keep your gas tank at least half-full, this is less likely to happen.
#4: Invest in winter tires
It is recommended strongly that vehicle owners in Canada should invest in a set of winter tires, especially if you drive frequently or have a long daily commute. In the winter, roads are more slippery than usual, and winter tires are designed to provide better grip in icy conditions, which offers more control over your vehicle.
When the temperature drops, your tires are more prone to losing air and pressure so it’s also important for you to conduct frequent tire checks throughout the winter months to ensure that they are properly inflated.
#5: Check your oil
During colder months, remember to check your car’s oil level frequently, to ensure that it isn’t too low, and that it’s the correct thickness.
While this is something you should do all year round, it is especially important in the winter because motor oil thickens when it’s cold outside. If your oil is too thick, it can be harder to start your engine. Lower viscosity oil can help prevent this from occurring - ask your service technician about this option next time you have an appointment.
#6: Create an emergency kit
Getting stuck on the side of the road in the middle of winter can be an absolute nightmare – especially during a snowstorm! That’s why it’s necessary to be prepared with a “kit” of emergency essentials in your vehicle. This kit should include things to help keep you warm and dry, but also tools to help you in case of a car breakdown. Some items you can keep in your emergency kit include:
- a blanket
- a flashlight
- water and snacks
- jumper cables
- a candle and matches
- a first aid kit
- an ice scraper
- a shovel
- a bag of kitty litter - to help provide traction if tires are stuck in the snow
#7: Check your vehicle heater
Before the temperatures reach their lowest of the year, remember to check that your car heater is in good working condition. Not only will you freeze, your heater is directly connected to your defroster which plays an important role during the winter months. If one doesn’t work, neither does the other. Not having a working defroster when it’s cold outside can be dangerous, as without one, it can be very hard to see. Your windows will either fog or freeze up.
#8: Always clean snow off your car before driving
This important task not only affects you, but other drivers on the roads as well. Please remember to make sure all your windows and windshields are cleared of snow and ice so that you can see properly. Clearing snow from your windows and lights is actually a legal requirement in some provinces, and you can receive a fine or ticket for breaking this law.
And, please take the extra time to clear the rest of the snow off your car – including the top! Blowing snow reduces visibility for everyone around you on the roads and it can be extremely dangerous and cause accidents.
Driving in the winter is a Canadian reality and it can be challenging but, if you follow the tips provided and drive with extra caution and courtesy, you can reduce your risk of getting into an unnecessary accident. Happy travels.