Get Ready for Winter Driving
Don't be caught unprepared for the first blast of winter weather. Before the snow flies, have a reputable garage do a tune-up and inspection on your vehicle to prevent problems.
The brakes must be faultless and equalized so there is no pulling to one side, which may cause skidding.
If it hasn't been done in a while, have your cooling system flushed out with a good chemical cleaner and put in fresh anti-freeze. Check containers, belts, hoses, the pressure caps and thermostat.
Battery and Electrical System
Cold weather is hard on batteries. If your battery is several years old, have it checked. Be sure connections are clean and tight.
A diagnostic check-up of the engine can be a good pre-winter investment. If you're due for a tune-up, have it done before winter sets in. Faulty wiring, worn spark plugs, a sticking choke or emission control devices that need attention, can all lead to hard starting.
Check the muffler and tail pipe system for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when the windows are closed.
Make sure there is plenty of gas in your tank at all times. A full tank minimizes condensation, which may cause gas line freezing. Add gasoline antifreeze occasionally.
Heaters, Defrosters and Wipers
Have them checked to make sure they are operational. Install winter wiper blades and use cold weather washer fluid. Ensure your windshield can give you clear vision of the road and traffic around you.
Oil and Filter
Dirty oil can give you trouble in the winter, so change the oil and filter. Check the other filters, including the fuel, air and transmission filters.
Snow tires increase traction in soft snow. Install them on all four wheels. All-season tires on all wheels with good treads are adequate in some regions. Check your tire pressure regularly - for every 5º C of temperature drop, tire pressure goes down by one pound.¹
The following items should cover most situations:
- windshield scraper and snow brush;
- lightweight shovel;
- bag of sand, wire traction mat or other abrasive substance;
- large box of facial tissues;
- properly inflated spare tire;
- wheel wrench and jack;
- first aid kit;
- battery jumper cables.
For long distance travel take extra precautions: bring a blanket, candles, lighter or matches, emergency rations, lined winter boots, hat and other warm clothes, and small heating cans.
Winter driving demands extra caution. Always be ready for the unsafe actions of other drivers and for poor driving conditions. Clear the snow and ice from your car, allow more travel time, leave a greater following distance and know how to deal with icy conditions.
Use a block heater in winter when the temperature drops to -20C (-4ºF) or below. A block heater keeps your engine oil and coolant warm, which makes the vehicle easier to start and can increase winter fuel economy by as much as 10 per cent. Use a timer to switch on the block heater one or two hours before you plan to drive