Essential Things We Should All Be Doing to Our Vehicles Before Winter
We may only be one month into the autumn, but when you live in Canada, winter approaches rapidly. That is why we have prepared an essential list of things you can do to prepare your car for winter.
Aside from the fact that the winter months can wreak havoc on your car when you’re on the road driving, the colder seasons can also be tough on your car if you park it outside. Simple things like parking away from trees with falling leaves can do wonders to protect your paint job and to keep debris off of your wiper blades and away from your weather stripping.
We all make sure to get our oil changes done regularly (well, most of us), and we top up our washer fluid whenever the “washer fluid is low” light comes on, but how often do we check things like our antifreeze? Or our coolant? Usually when our mechanic does it for us, right? Well part of having vehicles ready for our Canadian winters is checking those fluids, as well as a whole host of other things. So, let’s begin with our simple list of step to prevent winter leaks, breakdowns, and many other issues.
1. Check Your Heating
You’ll definitely want to make this number one on your list of priorities. Trust me when I say that there is nothing worse than being broken down on the side of the road, without heat. At the age of 19, I myself was trapped in a snow bank after hitting black ice through some very winding roads in Manning Park, BC. While I couldn’t get out without the aid of a passerby who had a winch, I was able to still start my car, and stay warm. If it’s taking longer than usual to defrost, or your car doesn’t get as toasty as it once did on your favourite setting, you should take it in to get it looked at.
2. Check Your Battery
You can’t have heat if you don’t have power, so make sure to get your mechanic to check your battery life. If you’d rather check it yourself, there are some things you’ll need to know. For starters, make sure the cables are good to go. No cracks, no breaks, and make sure they have a solid connection. There’s nothing like thinking your battery is toast after your car won’t start, only to find out it was a loose cable. Secondly, if you can’t remember when exactly you purchased it, check the manufacture date. Most batteries only last between 5 and 7 years, so if the date it was made is around this time, it’s a good idea to consider replacing it. Lastly, a sure-fire way to ensure you aren’t stranded on the side of the road during a snow storm is to get yourself a hydrometer to measure the charge on your battery. They only cost
around $10.00 at Canadian Tire, and they are handy to have. Just make sure your vehicle is turned off when you are doing it.
3. Tires, Tires, Tires!
If you’ve ever driven the Coquihalla in mid-November, you’ve without a doubt learned the importance of a good quality snow tire. Traversing our ever-changing snow conditions in BC is tough on the best of days, but doing it with less-than-ideal winter tires, or none at all, is an accident waiting to happen. If you’ve already got a set of snow tires from last season, you’ll want to not only check the tread, but check to see if you notice any loss in air pressure in any of the tires. Even the smallest slow leak to cause huge problems when you’re navigating icy roads. Plus, the West Coast is notorious for being exceptionally warm during the day, even in the winter months, and very cold at night. And when the temperatures rise and drop as frequently as they do in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, your tires pressure will decrease slowly over the winter months.
4. Check ALL of Your Fluids
You get your oil changes every 3 months, right? Of course! Because we know without them our car doesn’t run properly, The same goes with our fluids. Generally, our mechanics will check our fluids when doing an oil change, so we aren’t usually that low on anything when we give our vehicles regular maintenance. BUT there is always the potential to experience leaks, and they come on without warning, and usually aren’t found until we run out, or close enough to it that our indicator light comes on. If you’re on your way home for Christmas somewhere on Highway 3, the last thing you want to see anywhere on your console is an indicator light.
That one almost goes without saying, doesn’t it? It’s freezing outside, so first and foremost, let’s make sure our vehicle doesn’t become a popsicle. Make sure you’re getting just the right mix of antifreeze to water for your vehicle.
Windshield Washer Fluid
Why is it that we always run out of washer fluid right after getting sprayed by a snow plough with muddy salty slush? Maybe that only happens to me. Regardless, it’s never fun, and it always leads to a white knuckle right to the nearest gas station, where we get to pay an arm and a leg for gas station priced washer fluid. Make sure
you top this bad boy up, and keep a spare in the trunk for emergencies. We go through a lot more washer fluid than we realize in the winter months.
For those of us who aren’t making sure our vehicle gets in for an oil change every 3 months, or 5000 kms, now is the time. A lot of us travel over the holidays, and you want to make sure your car is in the best shape it can be before hitting the road. Depending on where you are driving, and what conditions you’re driving in, you may want to consider using a thinner oil than your typically do, just to prevent possible freezing.
5. Wiper Blades
This goes hand in hand with washer fluid, but it’s often overlooked. You can have all the washer fluid in the world, but if your wipers aren’t in good shape, you’ll still be severely restricting your visibility, and that can lead to slower reaction times, which leads to accidents. Make sure your wipers are solidly secure. Losing a blade in the rain or snow is always a headache. Also check to make sure they are in decent shape. If the rubber is starting to wear down, falling off, or has any nicks on it, it’s time to swap them out for a new pair. Sometimes, we think because our wipers aren’t wiping all that well and that they need replacing, but sometimes this is not the case. Take a rag and try cleaning out the ridges on your blades before you inspect them to see if you should replace them. On occasion, it can be as simple as the blades needing to be cleaned, not replaced.
6. Pack Yourself an Emergency Roadside Kit
Often times we have the standard winter gear in our vehicle. Ice scraper or brush, jumper cables, and maybe some kitty litter or sand in case we get stuck. But it’s a good idea to prepare for the possibility of being stranded until help arrives, and not just getting your car started or de-iced. Things like a blanket, or extra clothing can go a long way when you are trapped in your car in –10-degree Celsius temperatures. So here are a few ideas that you’ll want to keep in your car, especially if you are planning to travel during the colder months.
- A flashlight with extra batteries
- Food (non-perishable) and water
- A first aid kit
- Extra antifreeze and washer fluid
- A warm blanket and extra warm clothing like gloves, a toque, and extra socks
- Kitty litter, sand, or quick acting sidewalk salt
- An ice scraper
- Jumper cables
A back up phone charger that plugs into your car, or better yet, a power bank with a full charge
Customize your emergency kit to your own needs, or the needs of your family. Just make sure that you have these key staple items in it.
With these 6 trusty steps, you can have some peace of mind for you and your family while on the road this winter. Print this and put it on your fridge to remind you of what to do before you head out on any long trips this winter season.