Seven things you need to do for your car before winter
Friday, November 23, 2018, 4:18 PM - The Weather Network will be releasing its Winter Forecast on Monday, November 26, but the season usually doesn't respect mortal calendars.
Chances are you live in a province that has either already seen snow, or will before long -- and driving in snowy, cold weather is its own challenge.
Here are some tips to get your vehicle up to speed.
It's here! Check out The Weather Network's full 2019 Winter Forecast
1. WINTER TIRES AND TIRE PRESSURE
Most authorities on the subject recommend you ditch your all-seasons in favour of full-fledged winter tires before the flakes start to fall (if you haven't by now, call your mechanic, but be prepared for a line-up).
It's not just a marketing thing. Tires marked with the mountain/snowflake symbol are designed to grip the road better than normal tires in temperatures of 7oC or below. They also handle icy and snowy conditions better, provided they have a tread of at least 3.5 mm.
Just keep in mind: A good set of winter tires isn't a magical talisman against poor weather. You still have to be mindful of the conditions, and drive according to them.
While we're on the subject of tires, keep tire pressure in mind. Tire pressure drops a bit as the air cools, so check it regularly and keep your tires inflated to manufacturer's specs. It'll aid grip, and improve fuel economy.
2. USE THE RIGHT MOTOR OIL
Like any liquid substance, motor oil performs differently in colder conditions, and you'll need to keep that in mind when you take your car in for that winter oil change.
Consider a switch to an oil that's rated 5W (Like 5W-30 or 5W-40). Those are typically lighter and flow better in colder temperatures. Keep a carton in your trunk for top ups if necessary between oil changes.
And while you're having your mechanic look at it, get them to change the oil filter at the same time.
3. GET THE BRAKES LOOKED AT
Functional brakes are essential in any weather, but in the winter most of all, you must ensure they're in perfect working order.
Unlike other seasons, the usual hazards of the road are enhanced with ice or snow, so being able to stop suddenly is essential.
Have your brakes inspected, and brake pads replaced if necessary, according to manufacturer's instructions.
4. INSPECT AND/OR REPLACE THE BATTERY
Your battery has to work harder during the winter, and it definitely has a shelf life. There are few worse winter travel nightmares than turning the key and hearing the battery fail to start your car.
When the weather gets cold and stays cold, have your mechanic test your battery. If it's more than five years old, have it replaced.
While it's out, clean the connections, or ask your mechanic to do it for you. If you're replacing your battery yourself, be sure to keep safety in mind.
5. HAVE THE ENGINE SEEN TO
Your engine starts easier in warmer weather than in cold, but there's plenty you can do to keep it purring in the winter time.
Take it in for a full tune up, and make sure the wiring, spark plugs and other accessories are in good working order.
Pay special attention to coolant levels, and if it hasn't been done for awhile, have it flushed and replaced with the antifreeze mix recommended by the manufacturer, and make sure belts, hoses and other components are seen to.
If you live in especially cold climates (which is a distinct possibility. This IS Canada), be sure not to let your fuel tank get too empty in the winter, to minimize the risk of water vapour and condensation, which can cause the gas line to freeze.
6. MAKE SURE YOUR VISIBILITY IS TOP NOTCH
'Tis the season for driving in snowy weather, making it harder for you to see where you're going or what you're doing, so you'll need to have the right weapons.
Make sure your wiper blades are in working order, and consider replacing them with winter-specific blades, which are heavier and more effective at shifting snow. Stock up on washer fluid, make sure it's rated for use in extreme cold conditions, and have a spare carton of it in the trunk.
Rear-window defrosters are your friend on icy mornings. If they're not working well, get them fixed, and make sure to have a scraper/snow brush with you at all times. Leaving the snow on your car roof while you hit the road out in the mornings is a safety hazard for other drivers.
Finally, your rear lights and headlights need to be in top shape. Here's how to de-fog your headlights using nothing more than toothpaste and a toothbrush:
7. PACK AN SURVIVAL KIT
Car trouble is lousy. Car trouble capable of stranding you somewhere far from civilization is lousier.
Aside from keeping a charged cell phone and proper charger on hand, you'll be wanting a fully-stocked emergency kit just in case help is a long time in coming. Here's what ShiftIntoWinter.ca suggests you pack:
- Emergency kit containing non-perishable food, blankets and first aid supplies
- Windshield scraper and snow brush
- Extra windshield washer fluid
- Spare tire, wheel wrench and jack
- Shovel and traction mat, sand or kitty litter
- Fuel line antifreeze
- Flares and matches or lighter
- Tire chains and gloves
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Battery jumper cables
- Extra clothing and footwear
- Sandbags for extra weight