5 Steps to Getting Your Car Winter Ready

winterWinter is coming. And we all know that Canadian winters can be hard, especially on our cars. While we can’t stop winter, there are some things you can do to make sure your car is winter ready.
1. Use Winter Tires
When you live in place that gets a lot of snow, ice, and freezing cold temperatures, investing in a good pair of winter tires is highly recommended.
If you’re someone who doesn’t do a lot of performance driving, you may be tempted to go with all-season tires – after all, you can use them whatever the month. The problem is, a one-size- fits-all- weather tire won’t be able to handle the extreme conditions of any season.

In Ontario, winter tires are not required by law like they are in neighbouring Quebec, but you can get an insurance discount if you purchase and use them.

Overall, winter tires just make sense. Their tread is specifically designed for slippery roads, cold temperatures, and storm conditions.

Pro Winter Driving Tip: Tires will only work as long as you’re using them correctly. Use small, slow motions when driving – ease up the brakes and gently accelerate. If you start to skid, don’t slam on the brakes and panic. Steer into it the skid and keep a steady but soft pressure on the gas.
2. Have an Engine Checkup
Cars require regular maintenance, just like anything else that is used consistently. When you’re getting your car winter ready, there are a few things you should pay extra attention to.

Cold weather has a negative effect on your battery. It drains it much faster, putting you at risk for one day sitting in the frosty air with no hope of starting your car. Have your technician confirm that your battery is in good working shape. This includes looking for any corrosion, and making sure that the cables are firmly attached.

Oil Change
Your engine oil is the lifeblood of your car. In the winter, that lifeblood can become extremely thick because of the cold temperatures. This makes your car hard to start.
Using a low-viscosity oil during the winter season will help your engine start more easily. A bonus: the less friction in your engine, the more efficient your car will be!

Your coolant is what keeps your engine fluids from freezing. Coolant deteriorates over time, which is why it’s important to have it topped up, and occasionally changed completely.

Your brakes are important all year round, but is especially important when you have terrible road conditions. Have your auto mechanic test your brakes, and brake pads, when you take your car in for its pre-winter service. They should be in excellent condition for dealing with hazardous driving conditions.

3. Have Everything You Need for Your Windshield
One of the things that winter will impact the most is your visibility. If something goes wrong with your windshield, driving is going to become even more hazardous.

The best ways to protect yourself and your windshield is to:

● Put on new windshield wipers – Wiper blades take a beating throughout the seasons, and should be changed at least once a year. If you’ve noticed that your wiper blades are cracked, leaving streaks, or the rubber is hard, they should be replaced right away. It’s hard enough to see in winter without having to deal with salt and slush streaks due to
non-functioning wiper blades.

● Ice scraper – The dual brush and ice scraper is the handy winter tool no driver should be caught without. It makes cleaning your car much easier, and removes any buildup on
your windshield that could impair your vision.

● Windshield washer fluid – You’ve probably had nightmares about how much salt, snow, and sludge gets kicked up onto your car. Windshield washer fluid is the best way to combat the spray while you’re driving. You’re going to go through a lot more of it in the winter, so stock up in the fall and keep extra bottles in the car for necessary top ups.

4. Prepare Your Block Heater
A block heater is a must if your car is parked outside. Like I mentioned before, oil becomes thicker in the cold, and makes it hard to start your car. This strains your engine, and can cause more problems.

You’ll be plugging in your block heater sooner rather than later, so make sure that all the plugs are undamaged. Salt and corrosion can happen, and you don’t want to risk damaging your car.

5. Repack Your Emergency Kit
An emergency kit is for just that – an emergency. No one can predict the future, but you can prepare for it. Every car should have an emergency kit comprised of a few basic items. But when the weatherperson starts issuing frost warnings, you should add some winter-specific supplies.

● Extra blankets or an extra jacket – If there’s a storm, or you’re out of the way, it could take a while for help to arrive. Packing extra warm materials will help you stay as
comfortable as possible.

● Sand, salt, gravel, or kitty litter – I know I’ve mentioned it a lot, but winter is slippery. Sand, salt, gravel, and even kitty litter sprinkled on the ground and around your tires will give you some extra traction in case you get stuck.

● Jumper cables and a battery pack – Even the most well-cared for battery doesn’t always make it. Jumper cables, and a battery pack, will let you get the jump start you need.

● A shovel – It’s Canada. There’s going to be snow. Need I say more?

● Water and non-perishable foods – Stash some energy bars in your car so that if you’re waiting awhile.

● A survival candle and matches – A survival candle and matches will help keep you warm without wasting gas or battery life.

● Extra mittens and hats – Having multiple sets of winter accessories will cover you, and anyone who happens to be driving with you.

● Flat soled boots – This is for people who normally wear dress shoes or heels.

● Emergency numbers – Write down any numbers that could be needed in an emergency, including a tow truck and your emergency contact.

● An electronics battery pack – You’ll need your phone to call for assistance, and you’ll want to keep it on if people are trying to contact you. Invest in an extra battery pack that while charge your phone without you having to use your car. It may seem like a lot of things, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, particularly with Jack Frost
on the loose.

Take Your Time and Stay Safe
The best way to get your car winter ready is to get yourself ready too. Remember, driving in the winter is a lot different than driving in any other season. You have to be able to judge the conditions and adjust accordingly.

Pro Winter Driving Tip: Performance driving often means looking farther ahead on the road, planning your route. In the winter, look closer to your car so that you can better stay on the lines and tracks made before you. This will reduce slipping.

Ottawa has a few different winter driving courses if you feel like you need extra practice. The important thing is to just take your time, and prepare for the incoming conditions.

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