Prep Your Car For Winter
Is Your Car Ready For Winter Driving?
Canada faces extremely inclement winter conditions making it very hard for commuters all across the land. In such circumstances, our only hope lies in our vehicle to get us to our destination safe and sound. Along with preparing ourselves for the upcoming chill, we must also ensure our vehicles are well-maintained and are able to conquer the frigid roads and icing temperatures without leaving us stranded. Follow a few simple guidelines to thoroughly ready your car for winter driving.
Are Your Tires Good For Winter Driving?
Starting with the most imperative section that needs addressing is our tires. Keeping apart how mechanically healthy our vehicle is, a wrong set of tires can diminish any chances of safe driving on snowy roads. Since tires are what connect us to the roads and provide traction on any surface, using summer tires or even all-season tires on snow, slush and ice can prove fatal. These tires are not designed for use in temperatures below 7℃ (45℉) and so when the mercury drops, these tires tend to stiff up and provide marginal to negligible traction (grip) on snow and especially ice-covered roads. This means sacrificing safety as you lose the ability to drive over snow or ice - common in winter across most of Canada.
Hence, Winter tires are necessary for safe driving in even the worst winter conditions. These tires have unique tread patterns and are made from special compounds that remain flexible in temperatures way below freezing. Winter tires provide superior grip on snow, slush, and ice compared to any other tire allowing you to stop at shorter distances, accelerate faster, and have more control over the vehicle. Sp using winter tires is recommended especially in BC and Quebec where they are mandated by law. You can learn more about winter tires and their effectiveness in this guide. Also, make sure to adhere to all winter tires and related laws showcased in this article.
Check Tire Tread Depth
A tire with no tread is just as good as a pair of shoes with no sole or a heater that produces no heat - they’re useless. So making sure the tire has enough tread depth is vital. This can be done in many ways; a penny test, using a tread depth gauge or assessing the wear indicator bars. You can refer to our tire buying guide for finding all three methods of tread depth evaluation. If you find that the tires have limited or no tread left then make sure to replace them asap as driving on snow or ice is going to be impossible without sufficient tread. 1.6 mm tread depth is considered the minimum standard for a tire’s tread depth and anything below that necessitates tire replacement.
Check Tire Air Pressure
Do You Have Car Starting Trouble? Check Your Battery
As the temperature becomes colder, the battery has to work harder to provide enough energy to crank the engine for starting the car. If you have trouble starting your vehicle now, then the problem will only get worse in winter since the failing battery will make it all the more difficult to start your vehicle. First, assess the battery condition to ensure the battery still has life. Clean the battery terminals, inspect the battery cables and check the charging system as well. To carry out these inspections you can refer to our battery maintenance guide for analyzing the battery’s state and also prolonging its life.
Check Your Engine Coolant
Addressing issues with the engine coolant will solve three problems - firstly it will ensure the engine functions at operating temperature without overheating. Secondly, the coolant fluid will not freeze in the winter and thirdly, it will maintain the heating system in the cabin. The engine coolant needs to have sufficient amounts of antifreeze to prevent it from freezing as the temperature reaches minus degrees. The ideal ratio for extreme winter temperatures is 60:40 or 60% antifreeze to 40% water (distilled). The coolant also needs to be in proper condition for it to flow throughout the engine and heater core. Coolant that hasn’t been flushed in a long time will cause corrosion in the engine and deteriorates gaskets and the water pump. It is important to check the condition of the engine coolant and flush the system before the temperatures become too frigid. While you are at it, be sure to also check out and maintain other vehicular fluids.
Switch To Winter Wiper Blades
Wiper blades are used to rid the windshield of any dirt, water, snow, or splatter that can hinder the driver’s vision, especially in monsoons or winter. The wiper blades are an important part of your car’s safety feature and must be replaced regularly as they can prevent proper vision. During cold winter weather, raising the blades off the windshield prevents them from freezing to it. In the winter snow and ice can clog up and freeze the wiper blade mechanism which may render it inefficient and can also damage the windshield. This is why Winter Wiper Blades are recommended that have a rubber lining that seals the mechanisms and extends the life of the blades in the winter, preventing the blades from sticking to the windshield and freezing. These blades are made from a softer rubber compound that remains pliable during cold temperatures and performs better than regular wiper blades. Remember to add antifreeze or alcohol to the washer fluid to prevent it from freezing.
Service Brake Pads And Rotors
If you have driven in the winter, then you know that the hardest part while driving on the snow or on wet roads is braking. On snowy and wet roads, the wheels start to hydroplane causing the car to spin off even when the brakes are applied. This is because the ABS system tries to moderate the braking to allow maximum traction. But all the efforts are not just down to the ABS, even the brake pads and rotors must contribute significantly in order for the best braking results. Thus it is essential to get a fresh pair of brake pads and brake rotors, especially for the front wheels, that can perform well when required and prevent mishaps.
Prepare Winter Survival/Breakdown Kit
Winter weather is unpredictable and so we must take precautionary steps to ensure that we are ready for the worst that winter has to offer. A winter survival or breakdown kit is a useful emergency solution for immediate problems that may befall stranded passengers. The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA®) recommends packing these items in your trunk and vehicle to tackle various problems.
Keep the following items inside your vehicle.
- Blankets (special "survival" blankets are best)
- Ice scraper and brush
- Road maps
- First aid kit
Keep the following items in your trunk:
- Small tool kit (screwdriver, pliers, etc.)
- Extra fuses (for the vehicle’s electrical system)
- booster cables or jump starters
- sand or kitty litter
- traction mats
- tow chain
- cloth or roll of paper towels
- warning light or road flares
- fire extinguisher
- extra clothing and footwear
- emergency food pack
- matches and a "survival" candle in a deep can (to warm hands, heat a drink, or use as an emergency light)
- extra windshield washer fluid
- fuel line antifreeze
- reflective vest
- Lock out-tools
Following these few steps before setting out for a winter drive is going to ensure your vehicle is equipped for handling the inclement weather conditions and you are ready to tackle any uncertainties or face an emergency situation with confidence. Installing winter tires and servicing the brakes and engine components will provide you with the best performance and handling in severe winter weather. With minimum braking distances and faster acceleration over slippery icy roads, you can be sure to have a safe drive no matter the weather outside.