Yes...it's that time of the year again.
Canadian winters are unpredictable and anything could happen on the roads! During winter, the driving conditions are more hazardous due to the snow, slush and ice. It's highly recommended to check and prepare your car for the winter weather to ensure your car can handle the winter road conditions.
Time for a few quick checks to get your car ready for winter. Let's Go!
1. Swap to your Winter Tires
(Step 1 and Step 2 are to be done in conjunction with each other!)
It's crucial to have winter tires because they are specially engineered with a compound that is able to stay soft in cold weather, thus allowing for your vehicle to have better and traction on slippery surfaces.
Look out for the Mountain Snowflake symbol when purchasing winter tires!
All-Season and Summer tires will start to harden as temperatures drop [especially below 7°C (44°F)]! This is why it's recommended to swap to your winter tires before temperatures begin to fall!
Note: Downsizing (going down in rim size along with higher profile tires) can save you money, especially if you have a separate set of winter rims and tires!
- Downsizing gives you increased traction due to the weight of the car being more focused on a specific area
- You save money on mounting and balancing the tires every season
- Your tires will have less wear and tear from being stretched from continuous mounting
- Tire Manufacturers and Car Manufacturers usually have attractive rebates when you purchase a full set of winter tires!
2. Inspect your tires
This step should be done in conjunction with step #1. Preferably BEFORE the tires are mounted and installed.
Inspect your tires for tread depth and for any signs of cracking or punctures.
So, what does the tire tread do?
- Designed to help channel water and slush away from under your tire to ensure that your tire is always in contact with the road surface
- With little to no tread remaining, the water is unable to escape from the contact patch, resulting in a loss of contact with the road surface
- Could result in hydroplaning in wet conditions
- Occurs when a tire encounters more water than it can evacuate
- Water pressure in the front of the wheel pushes water under the tire, causing for the tire to become separated from the road surface by a thin film of water
- Results in loss of steering, braking and power control
Remember to check tread depth! Your tires will not perform if there is no tread left!
After installation of your winter tires, check the tire pressure and make sure you follow your manufacturer's recommendations for pressure level. During the winter, your tire pressure tends to drop due to the cold weather - thus you should regularly check your tire pressure during the winter. Your manufacturer's recommended tire pressure can be found in the driver's side door jamb or in your owner's manual.
3. Top up All Fluids
- Windshield Washer Fluid (-40°C is recommended for winter conditions)
- Ensure you have the right engine oil for your car (check owner's manual). Generally, oil such as 5W30 works better in cold weather than thicker 10W30 or 10W40.
- Check your Antifreeze and Coolant levels. Both of these fluids help protect your car by controlling the temperatures of fluids and various engine parts to prevent freezing or overheating. If you are unsure how to do this, contact your mechanic or check your vehicle's owner manual.
- Check your coolant reservoir tank under the hood to see if the liquid reaches the "Full" line
- Do not touch/open/add anything to your vehicle if it has just been running. Some engine components are pressurized and your engine gets very hot after running!
- Coolant is usually red, green, blue or yellow. If your coolant looks colorless, rusty, or if there are things floating around in it, then you will need to flush your cooling system before adding new coolant
- If the coolant has a sludgy, oily surface, you will need to take your car immediately to your mechanic to check for an internal head gasket leakage
- Check and feel the radiator hoses (they are big hoses that go into the top and come out from the bottom of the radiator) If they're leaking, crack, bulgy or squishy, then they should be replaced
- Antifreeze is typically sold as a 100% solution. Antifreeze should be mixed evenly with distilled water to create a 50-50 blend. You may also be able to buy a pre-diluted (50-50) blend
- Fuel - it's always a good idea to keep your fuel tank at least half full during the winter due to unpredictable weather.
- But, keeping your fuel tank full is recommended because the cold and constantly shifting temperatures can cause condensation to form on the walls of your gas tank
- This condensation will turn into water, which will drip into your gas and eventually make it's way to the bottom, and into fuel lines. If it freezes up, it will block the flow of gas to your engine, preventing your vehicle from running.
4. Vehicle Inspection
As a general rule, you should always follow your manufacturer's maintenance schedule to maintain your vehicle and keep it running properly for many years to come. This is crucial as it will help detect any problems that may lead to your car malfunctioning.
Here are some things to inspect:
- Belts and Hoses
- Spark Plugs
- Wires and Cables
- Car Battery - Test and Clean the Terminals
- Antifreeze and Cooling System
- Lights and Fuses (Ensure they're properly functioning)
- Electrical and Exhaust Systems
- Wiper Blades (front and back wipers, if applicable)
- Lubricate Hinges, Locks, Change Cabin Air Filter
It's okay if you don't know how to inspect your car. Visit a certified mechanic to get your car thoroughly inspected.
5. Emergency Kit
You should always keep an Emergency Kit, as well as a First Aid Kit inside your car in case of an emergency. It doesn't take up much room and will come in very handy if an emergency does arise. You can find many ready-made kits available for purchase.
Emergency Kit Contents:
- Snow shovel, Brush and Ice Scrapper
- Engine Oil, Washer Fluid and Coolant
- Flashlights and Flares
- Booster Cables
- Extra Jacket, Rain gear Gloves, Hat, Boots, Blanket, Heating Pads
- Non-Perishable Food, Water
- First Aid Kit
- Waterproof matches
- Tow Rope
- Multi-tools and equipment
- Tire Puncture Seal
Other Items to Keep in your Car:
- Extra phone and phone charger
- Emergency Contact Numbers
Following these steps to prepare your car for the winter will help keep your car running smoothly and safely throughout the winter season! Remember to allow yourself ample time to get to where you need to go safely in winter weather! Keep an eye out for our next guide on Winter Driving Tips and Tricks! Happy Winter Driving Everyone!