Winterize Your Vehicle
One of the most beneficial preventative measures you can take to winter-proof your vehicle is to install winter tires on your car. Get four tires that are suitable for your vehicle, paying special attention to the mountain/snowflake symbol on the side to indicate that they conform to winter tire standards. Don’t wait for the first snowfall to make the change, either — winter tires should be installed when the ambient temperature drops below 7C. This is when the rubber in all-season tires hardens and starts, losing the grip it offers.
According to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada’s Winter Tire Report, only half of Canadian motorists outside Quebec — where winter tire use is mandatory according to provincial law — use winter tires, with 63 per cent of people surveyed incorrectly believing that all-season tires offer adequate braking power and traction for Canadian winters.
However, the survey showed the biggest detractor for switching to winter tires was the cost. But, in addition to government incentives, some insurance companies also offer discounts to drivers who use winter tires. In Quebec, where the tires have been mandatory since 2008, crashes have decreased significantly; a study done for the province’s transportation ministers showed an 18 per cent drop. Don’t put a price on peace of mind — winter tires can save lives.
In addition to the installation of winter tires, basic maintenance of your vehicle is also of critical importance before the winter months are in full swing. Be sure to take action on the following items:
- Make sure lights are all working properly. Replace any headlights, brake lights or other lights on your vehicle if they’re not in working condition. Especially in the winter, it’s important to see and be seen.
- Ensure you have a fully-charged battery. In cold weather, a depleted battery might not be enough to start your vehicle. Have your battery tested before cold weather hits, and be proactive in changing it for a new one before the old battery fails.
- Know you’ll be able to stop safely. Winter tires are an important part of gaining traction when stopping, but you should also check that your brakes are working well. If they are squeaking, creaking, feel odd or seem to pull, get them serviced.
- Windshield wipers and washer fluid should be working right. Replace any windshield wipers that are streaky, as any accumulation of snow or ice could make visibility much poorer. Also, fill up on winter windshield washer fluid (-35C or -40C) and keep a second jug in your vehicle at all times in case of emergency.
- Keep a brush and scraper in your vehicle. You never know when you might need to brush snow or scrape ice off your car. Be prepared for these eventualities and they won’t catch you by surprise. Consider keeping a flashlight, too, as the extra light may prove useful on dark winter nights.
Driving in the winter always poses a new set of challenges to even the most experienced of drivers. Ensure that you’re well prepared to face the elements, leave yourself plenty of time and space to get stopped if necessary and, if possible, avoid driving in poor visibility bad weather conditions entirely.
Be a SAFETY Leader!