One of the most critical times of the year to be proactive about the care of your car is before the depths of winter sets in. Are you and your car ready for the cold and snowy driving conditions ahead? Here’s what to do and know before hitting the road in the winter.
Your Tires Make a Big Difference
Tires have become so durable, many of us don’t give them much thought. Your tires, however, can be the single biggest factor in keeping your car on the road through snow and ice.
Many cars have “all-weather” tires on them, giving consumers the impression that they work just fine in the wintertime. The fact is, during our cold, snowy, and wet winters in Western Canada, snow tires can be worth the investment. Snow tires have more aggressive tread patterns that can better grip through the snow and manage icy conditions, as well as a different rubber composition that enables it to remain soft throughout colder temperatures.
The rule of thumb is, better safe than sorry. If you’re not sure whether you’ll need winter tires, then you should probably have winter tires. At the very least, make sure your current tires have sufficient tread to make your day to day travels safer during the cold weather season.
Important note! If you’re traveling outside of the Lower Mainland or Southern Vancouver Island, snow-tires are mandatory while driving on most highways between Oct 1st, and March 31st. So not only are winter tires recommended, they’re also the law.
Do your tires qualify as winter tires? Check out this link (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/driving-and-transportation/driving/winter/pdfs/wintertiresinbc_handout.pdf) from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to find out.
Have Your Coolant Checked
Many car owners will occasionally check the level in their radiator, topping it off over the course of time with water. This eventually dilutes your coolant/anti-freeze, potentially to the point where it may not be as effective. Your engine coolant/anti-freeze not only keeps the fluid from freezing and your engine cool but it also serves to better protect your entire cooling system. As it ages, it can lose this protective quality and actually increase corrosion. Keeping your engine coolant/anti-freeze fresh and full will help to protect your engine.
Stay Focused with New Wipers and Washer Fluid
The change of season is a perfect time to get new wipers installed. You’ll also want to make sure your wiper fluid level is full using a windshield washer fluid product that won’t freeze. Driving in the winter can lead to a constant battle with salt, sand, and dirt on your windshield and taking some simple steps now can help you keep a clear view of the road ahead.
Don’t Get Stuck on the Road: Have a Battery/Alternator Check
You don’t have to wait for a battery or alternator to fail to replace it. You can have your battery tested to determine its age and how old it is holding a charge. Your alternator can also be tested to determine its effectiveness. It is far easier to address a potential failing battery or alternator ahead of time than to be left out in the cold on the road or in a parking lot somewhere. Another signal that you might have a battery issue are fading headlights.
Take the Time to Refresh Your Winter Driving Skills
The first big snow of the year seems to bring out the worst in drivers. You should remind yourself that driving in snow and ice is far different than driving in the summer. You’ll need to plan for extra travel time and leave more room between you and the car in front of you. If you have a light vehicle or small truck, you may consider adding some weight to the rear of the vehicle with sandbags or rock salt. You also may want to keep a blanket, candle, tow rope and other emergency supplies in case you have a breakdown or get stuck in the snow.
Be prepared and minimize the potential problems you may face on the roadways this winter.