Canadian Winter Driving Tips

We are sorry to tell you this, but winter is not far away. And that’s means making sure your car is ready for changing driving conditions.

A 50/50 mixture of anti‑freeze/water in the cooling system gives ‑35C protection in winter. Cars with aluminum parts in the engine require antifreeze that is compatible with aluminum. Many late model vehicles are equipped with long life (pink) coolant, with a recommended change interval of five years or 160,000 km. If the vehicle uses regular antifreeze and it is two years old, change it. If in doubt about the type of antifreeze for your car, check the owner’s manual or ask your mechanic.

The colder the weather, the greater the demand placed on the battery. Correcting water levels are vital to battery life and performance and even maintenance‑free batteries require attention – checking the state of charge and keeping terminal connectors secure and free of corrosion will play a key role in quick winter starts. A battery that is four or more years old must be considered near the end of its life. It may work fine at 25C, but it could be quite useless at freezing temperatures (‑10C to ‑20C). The cause of inadequate battery charge may be as simple as a loose alternator belt. A charging‑system check will confirm that the battery is receiving a charge.

A faulty ignition system can prevent a car with even the best battery from starting. A visual under‑hood inspection along with electronic diagnostic equipment can be effectively used to determine overall engine performance. On newer cars, extended life platinum tipped spark plugs has greatly reduced their scheduled replacement, but they still need to be checked along with the rest of the ignition system. Regular spark plugs should be replaced every 25,000 to 30,000 kilometres.

Check and top up all fluid levels. Lubrication systems need the proper viscosity of oil to prevent excessive drag and wear during starting, especially when the engine is cold. Most car manufacturers now recommend 5W‑30 or 5W-20 oil for all‑year‑round operating conditions. Using oil such as SAE/10W‑30 year round may not meet the lubrication needs of your engine in extremely cold weather. Cars with gasoline engines will also start more easily with SAE/5W‑30 motor oil. Any motor oil labeled with SAE or API “SL/CD” designation ensures great engine protection. If you are prepared to shell out the extra cash, synthetic oil will offer the best engine protection year round. Owners of diesel‑engine cars should check their owner’s manual to determine the best cold‑weather motor oil.

A good set of tires is also vital, whether they are all-season radials or winter tires. Check tires for proper inflation pressures including the spare tire. Four winter tires is your best solution to increase traction in winter driving conditions as the tire compound is designed for use in colder weather.

Have the exhaust system checked for leaks. Winter is the season when we tend to keep all our windows rolled up, creating a potentially dangerous situation for carbon monoxide poisoning. Never sit in a stationary vehicle with the engine running and the windows closed.

Have all brakes and suspension components inspected at least once a year or every 20,000 kilometres.

Keep headlamps clean for greater visibility.

Replace defective windshield wiper blades. If you travel in a region that gets lots of snow and ice, consider winter wiper blades. Periodic cleaning with a household cleaning detergent can often renew the wiping power of dirty blades and extend their life. Fill windshield washer‑fluid reservoir with a solution that guards against freezing for winter use.

Check heater, front and rear defroster for proper operation.

It’s a good idea to have these items in the vehicle during winter: a package of sand or kitty litter (for traction on ice or snow), small shovel, ice scraper and snowbrush, flashlight, flares, candles, matches, jumper cables, dry cloth, gloves, blanket or extra clothes and washer fluid.