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Prepare Your Car for Winter
Fall may just be nicely settling in, but we all know that winter is just around the corner. It’s important to start preparing your car for winter driving conditions. You can take your vehicle to your favourite mechanic and have them prepare your vehicle for winter, or you can take the following steps to maximize your safety when ‘old man winter’ sets in.
- Make the Switch to Winter Tires
Most people know that winter tires make cold weather driving in Canada easier and safer. They make a huge difference in terms of handling and traction; the softer, more flexible rubber used in the construction of winter tires provides a grip that all-season tires lose during those bitter cold months. Even on dry roads, winter tires work best in the winter. Need more convincing that you need winter tires – check out some winter tire myths here.
- Emergency Kit
Swing by your local hardware store and pick up a winter emergency safety kit. These handy little kits often contain jumper cables, flares, emergency blankets, scrapers, a multi-tool, a first-aid kit and more. Add your own ‘survival bag’ consisting of gloves, a toque, boots, a collapsible shovel, duct tape, a tarp, and extra winter washer fluid. It is also a good idea to stock your car with some emergency water, chocolate and even a book in case you have to wait a bit longer than expected for help.
- Winter Fluid Check
Viscosity varies with temperature so your vehicle may benefit from a lighter weight engine oil, improving engine start-up and providing better lubrication during the colder months. Along with your oil, it’s a good idea to check the lines for leaks and top up your brake fluid, anti-freeze, automatic transmission fluid, and winter windshield washer fluid. While checking your washer fluid, you’ll also want to double check your wiper blades. If they’re cracked, split, or are causing streaking, replace them immediately.
- Tire Pressure
Check your tire pressure regularly during the winter months. Underinflated tires can greatly increase braking distance and negatively affect steering and handling – two very important parts of winter driving safety.
- Winter Battery Care
Have you ever sat in the driver’s seat on a snowy morning, turning the key slowly, watching your breath as you say a little prayer that your battery will find the juice it needs to start your vehicle? Cold weather slows everything down, especially the chemical reaction happening inside your car battery. At 32F, a car’s battery loses about 35% of its strength – at 0F it’s more like 60%, but your engine requires nearly twice that power to get you started! Avoid getting stuck by having your battery tested and replaced if needed before the cold weather sets in.
Finally, try to always maintain at least a half-tank of gas; it will limit condensation in your tank and prevent your gas line from freezing. Best to catch a problem early, rather than let it find you on the road.