Winter Driving | Don’t Lose Your Cool
We all know what’s coming. Winter driving. The leaves are changing and the warm summer breeze has given way to a crisp, cool wind. It was Ben Franklin who once said “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. Clearly old Ben never spent any time north of the 49th, because he’d know something else is certain – Canadian winters are cold. Canadian winters are harsh. Canadian winters are some of the most adverse conditions your vehicle can face.
Jack Frost – Your Winter Backseat Driver
However, Canadians never let it get them down. To deal with ice we play hockey. To deal with snow we go tobogganing. So when it comes to dealing with salted highways and sanded roads what do we do? How do these winter driving conditions affect our vehicles? To be blunt, when it comes to what effects winter driving has on your vehicle, winter = bad. However, with some tips, you can make it through with little difficulty. Just think of winter driving as regular driving, only with the glamour of an on ice! production. So pour a mug of cocoa and get comfy beside the fire while we dive into some winterizing tips:
A patch of black ice can come out of nowhere, and in the middle of a snowstorm you could be stranded for hours before towing or emergency services can get to you. Winter or not, it is a good idea to have an emergency kit in your vehicle that you can access.
Before the snow starts falling it’s a good idea to either give your car a good inspection or have one performed by trained professionals. Going over all your vehicles hoses, belts, and connections helps you stay ahead of any winter damage.
We assume that when we turn our heater on we’ll get warmer, however, it’s not a good idea to wait until you need it to check your heater. Check to see how long it takes to heat up, and if defog systems (front and rear) as well as cabin heat systems are working. If you have a block heater (you plug your car in at night when it’s cold) test it by plugging it in overnight and feeling your engine. The engine should be warm.
Snow and slush are the least of your troubles in winter. Freezing rain and ice are the real dangers. As much as your passengers may delight in the elegant tango of sticking your arm out into the freezing winds to try and grab your moving wiper and slam it against your window, having new and functional wiper blades as well as topped of wiper fluid keeps your window clear.
Antifreeze seems like a winter no-brainer in winter, but it can also help keep your engine cool in the summer. 50:50 water and antifreeze in your radiator help prevent any temperature extremes in your vehicle. Most bottles are sold premixed.
Running low on gas is never good for your vehicle, and this issue can be made even worse in the winter. With winter temperatures constantly changing, condensation can form in your gas tank. Given that gasoline floats on top water, the water will sink to the bottom and find its way into the gas lines where it can freeze. Treat a quarter tank remaining like its empty; it’s also beneficial in case of extra idling your car may do warming up.
Oil won’t likely freeze, but it can thicken with the cold winter temperatures. In your vehicles service manual there may be information about switching to lower viscosity (runnier) oil. Remember, it is suggested to change your oil every 5000 km.
Batteries tend to last anywhere from 3-6 years. If you don’t remember ever changing you battery, or you forgot you even had a battery, it might be worth giving it a look. If you notice any corrosion forming near its tips (what looks like a whiteish blue powder near it’s + and – terminals) this can be cleaned away with a little water and baking soda mixture. In a pinch, pouring coke over the corroded terminal end and rinsing with water can also clear away corrosion. Just make sure the vehicle is off first and all connections are removed.
While there is some debate over winter tires vs all seasons, winter tires have been shown to improve driving in icy conditions in numerous studies. If it’s a matter of cost, you’ll have two sets of tires, but replace them half as often. Switch to winter tires between thanksgiving and Remembrance Day, and switch to summer tires around Easter. Also having the proper kPa in your tire saves fuel economy and improves traction. (kPa or PSI information can usually be found on a silver or white sticker on the edge of your vehicles door, in the owner’s manual, or on the tires themselves)
Over 90% of traffic accidents are caused by driver error. Remember that the same route with winter driving factors should take you longer than in summer. Showing up to work 10 minutes early isn’t worth endangering you and everyone else on the road. It’s easy to get down with the gray skies and cold temperatures of winter, but staying positive and patient means you’ll be soaking up the summer rays in no time.
The most important bit of advice for winter driving is to simply be prepared. If you’re seeing a snowplows before you’ve done any winter preparation for your car then it may be too late. If you’re in a snowbank reading this on your phone then it is certainly too late. Having your car inspected, and being prepared with supplies and knowledge can help keep your car on the road long enough to get back to long summer road trips.
Have valuable tips and advice about winter driving? Share them in the comments below!
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