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Preparing Your Car for Winter

Thursday, 26 September 2019

I know what you’re thinking, and trust me, we’re not the biggest fan of winter weather either. But you might agree with us on the fact that it is very important to be prepared. One thing that comes along in preparation, is your car. Preparing your car for winter is important to keep you and your family safe. Driving during the winter months can be a challenge but here are a few winter car maintenance tips to help get your car winter-ready.

Preparing Your Car for Winter - Tires

Are Winter Tires Mandatory in Ontario?

As soon as temperatures hit 7˚C, you can put on your winter tires. If you don’t already have them, it is definitely a good investment in very snowy climates. Winter tires contain a specific rubber compound which helps them grip snow and ice for better traction. They can stay flexible at low temperatures which is why they are considered a must in areas where it regularly drops below 45˚F. Take some time to inspect them to ensure a tread is adequate to be able to have enough traction to help you brake and steer when driving. Your tires should be replaced when the tread reaches 4/32”. Do you want to save on your car insurance? Many insurance companies also offer discounts for preparing your car for winter if you put winter tires on during the months of November to March!

You should also check the air pressure in all four tires as well as the spare tire. The drop in temperature can cause a reduction in pressure (around one pound per square inch with every 10 degrees drop in temperature) making it hard to grip on snow and ice. It is best to check it regularly, every time you fill up gas or at least every month. Your car is less predictable with underinflated tires and can cause premature wear or tread separation which could lead to a major accident.   

Preparing Your Car for Winter - Protecting the Exterior

Before the season starts, get your car ready for winter with a maintenance checkup. Perhaps the most important thing is checking your brakes. Braking is critical in the winter when you’re driving in the snow and ice. While you’re at the shop, check those engine belts and hoses! No one wants to break down but in the winter with cooler temperatures, it can be way worse if you do. Also check if your exhaust system is intact to avoid leaking pipes or mufflers which could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

At home care is also a good idea to keep your car in great condition. Wash your car in the winter months! With winter weather comes a lot of snow, slush, ice, salt and sand on the roads which can cause build up during the season. It is best to wash and wax your vehicle before the build up begins. Doing this can help prevent rust from forming, especially around your tires and the front grill of your car.

Preparing Your Car for Winter - Checking Fluids

When preparing your car for winter, we recommend that you always have a minimum of half a tank of gas. Having a full tank of gas helps prevent condensation in your engine which happens more in winter temperatures and can freeze the fuel pump and gas lines. Also, it would be unfortunate to run out of gas and get stranded somewhere, especially in winter. If you do get stranded, it helps to have gas in your tank to be able to run the engine and stay warm until help arrives.

If you want your car to perform well in the winter, you want to make sure to check your oil for proper consistency. Oil thickens as temperatures drop, and if it gets too thick, it will not lubricate your engine properly and can cause damage. It may be a good idea to consider synthetic oil because it is thinner in consistency and can help extend the life of the engine. Make sure to check your owner’s manual to check if you are using the recommended oil for your vehicle.

Lastly, it is also important to check the status of the antifreeze in your vehicle. If it isn’t filled up enough, the liquid could freeze and cause a leak or your transmission to fail. It is best to do this before the seasons, in normal weather you would want a 50/50 ratio of antifreeze to water, however, in the winter, it should be 60/40 to lower the engine freezing point. You might need to top your radiator up with antifreeze as it becomes diluted.

Preparing Your Car for Winter Emergencies

It is easy to overlook emergency situations in the winter, especially if you are an urban driver. However, you never know when you might find yourself stuck on a deserted road with heavy snow falling all around you. For this reason, it is a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. Here are some things to put in it: a blanket, flashlight, non-perishable food items, water, jumper cables, a shovel, salt, a first-aid kit, a car cellphone charger, extra gloves, an ice scraper, windshield washer fluid, and flares. Having this kit in your trunk ready to go when you need it will make all the difference in personal safety.

Winter Driving - Protect Visibility

Windshield wipers are very important for visibility, especially in the winter season. It is recommended that you change your wiper blades twice a year, so they are effective at removing blowing snow and rain. Make sure yours are in working order before the season’s weather starts. Check for nicks and tears in the rubber of your wipers, as these can cause streaks and low visibility.

Make sure your heater and defroster are working properly; this helps with ensuring the windshield is clear and can keep windows from fogging up. Did you know that air conditioning is what cars use to defrost and dehumidify the internal car environment? Many drivers don’t realize this and never think to use the air conditioning in winter (for obvious reasons).

Winter Car Maintenance - Protect Your Battery

Your battery should be fully charged and in good condition. A car battery does not operate as well in cold weather as it does in warmer weather. You may not know that your battery is weakened until it’s too late, so it is wise to get it tested before winter hits. You can test it yourself simply by turning on the headlights before you start the engine. If the lights get brighter when you start the engine, your battery might be dying. We recommend seeing a mechanic to ensure it is checked properly before the winter season.

Some of these pieces of advice are often overlooked but knowing this information could keep you safe this winter. Knowing how to be prepared is one step in the right direction, now it’s time to use these tips to ready your vehicle before that dreadful weather hits. If you have any concerns or questions about how to further prepare, contact us today!

By: Serenity Roberts