9 Tips for winterizing your vehicle
Winter is coming.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to make sure your vehicle is in good condition to tackle the cold, ice, and snow that’s ahead. The improved safety and dependability of your car, truck, or SUV will help keep you and your family safer. And, by avoiding winter collisions, you’re keeping your auto insurance premiums lower.
Follow these tips to get your vehicle in shape:
- Get your vehicle inspected. Take your vehicle in for a winter tune-up and ask your mechanic to look it over to make sure that all systems are functioning and in good condition. Check the battery, brakes, belts, hoses, filters, ignition system, spark plugs, heater/defrosting systems, lights, and so on. Summer driving can cause wear and tear, so fix any problems now to help avoid the possibility of a breakdown.
- Install winter tires.You can put on winter tires when the temperature hits 7C. Although all-season tires can legally be used in winter in most provinces, it’s not the safest option. Studies have shown a meaningful decline in auto-related collisions after winter tires were mandated in Quebec and Germany. According to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, winter tires provide your vehicle with more traction and handle freezing temperatures much better. As a bonus, many insurance companies offer a winter tire discount that will help you save money on auto premiums. A final note about tires: Be sure to check your air pressure monthly in the winter.
- Get an oil changeRegular oil changes help your vehicle run better. If you have not had one done recently, do it now. There are specific types of oil for winter conditions that have less viscosity (are thinner) and will help the engine run more efficiently. Find out more about the benefits of synthetic oil here.
- Make sure your antifreeze mixture is correct. Coolant should be a 50-50 combination of antifreeze and water. Having less than 50 per cent antifreeze can leave your engine vulnerable to freezing. If you are unsure, you can buy an inexpensive antifreeze tester at an auto part store to find out.
- Replace windshield wiper blades.Wiper blades break down over time and should be replaced every six months. There are wiper blades specifically designed for handling snow and ice. It’s also smart to fill your windshield washer reservoir with fluid designed for freezing temperatures - ideally down to -40C – and keep some on hand in the vehicle.
- Inspect your windshield for cracks and chips.Temperature changes can cause a small chip or crack in your windshield to become a large one as the glass expands and contracts. If you’ve got a chip in your windshield, get it fixed.
- Keep gloves, a snow brush, and an ice scraper in the vehicle.Drivers must keep their windows clean of snow and ice for safety’s sake. By failing to do so in Ontario, for example, drivers caught with snow on their windshield could face a $110 fine under the Highway Traffic Act.
- Use winter floor mats. Rubber mats designed for your vehicle’s make and model can help to hold the snow that you bring into your car. They are easy to clean up and should be cleaned/drained often to avoid fogging when the snow melts.
- Pack an emergency kit.Always be prepared. You never know when you may be stuck in a snowstorm or when your vehicle may break down. Your kit should include first-aid supplies, a warm blanket, a few non-perishable food items, as well as a flashlight and batteries, a folding shovel, and sand or cat litter for traction.