Winter Car Care – Safe Winter Driving
Is your vehicle winter ready?
Winter isn’t kind to cars. Preparing your vehicle in advance will help you combat whatever winter throws your way. Here are some tips to ensure you and your car are ready for the season.
Give your car a checkup
Whether you do it yourself or you hire a professional, here is what may be included in a winter car checkup:
- Your battery. It works harder in cold temperatures, so a weak one is a liability. If it’s between three to five years old, chances are that it could fail. Check for signs of corrosion, wetness or bulges in the casing. Battery tests are available with your CAA membership. Check with your local club for details.
- Your ignition system. Check the condition of your ignition components, including spark plugs, wires and distributor cap. Faulty components can make starting your car a game of chance, and can even cause breakdown.
- Your tires. Tire pressure goes down in cold weather. What was okay for fall could result in low tire pressure during the winter. Check your tire pressure regularly. Remember to check your spare, too.
- Your lights. Make sure all your interior and exterior lights are working. For safe driving, ensure your headlights are aimed correctly.
- Your brakes. If you’ve noticed any change in the feel of your brakes, or if they’re squealing or grinding, it may be time to have them serviced. With black ice and unpredictable weather, having good brakes can mean the difference between stopping and sliding.
- Your windshield wipers. Did you know that the average wiper blade lasts only six months? Check the condition of your blades if you notice streaking on the windshield. Some drivers prefer wipers designed specifically for winter driving.
- Your fluids. The fluids in your car help things run smoothly. If it’s been around six months since your last oil change, it’s a good idea to get it done before winter. Make sure your engine coolant meets the requirements of your area’s cold temperatures. Replace the coolant if it’s been more than two years since the last flush.
Now that you’ve made sure your car is ready for the winter season, here are some additional items to keep in mind:
- Consider winter tires. Even if it’s not mandatory in your province, winter tires provide extra safety. Winter tires bring many benefits, like the fact that their rubber remains flexible in cold temperatures, unlike all-seasons which lose elasticity below 7ºC.
- Pre-heat your engine. If the temperature in your area drops below -15ºC, consider using a block heater to reduce engine stress.
- Keep your wiper fluid full. Keep extra fluid in your trunk. Make sure it’s rated for -40ºC.
- Prevent your gas line from freezing. Keeping your tank at least half-full reduces the build-up of condensation, which can freeze and stop fuel from reaching your engine.
- Combat rust. There are several ways to avoid rust: frequent car washes that include an undercarriage wash; rustproofing; and applying a layer of polymer or carnauba over paint and trim.
- Prepare for the unexpected. Emergency car kits can help you out of a bind. Some items you should pack include: gloves, hats, a blanket, a first aid kit, booster cables, a small shovel and a flashlight. Check out a full list of suggested items in an emergency car kit here.