Driving in a snowstorm is not pretty. It’s difficult to see ahead of you, the roads are very slippery, and the vehicles around you are all facing the same issues. As an experienced driver, you might have enough experience to manage your way through inclement weather. However, if it’s your first winter driving as a learner, you need to do everything you can to prepare for these harsh conditions. Here are 5 easy ways to get yourself and your vehicle ready for the snowy season.
1. Change your tires
The only part of your vehicle that touches the road is your tires. It’s highly recommended to drive with winter tires in the snowy season, as they’ll give you the traction (grip) needed to accelerate, stop, and turn safely without slipping and sliding. Winter tires have a flexible rubber compound and wider gaps between the tread, both of which help the tires maintain better traction on snowy and icy roads.
If you don’t plan on changing your tires, you should at least keep a close eye on your tire pressure as the weather gets colder. Cold weather causes the air in tires to contract, thereby reducing the tire pressure (as measured in psi) quite significantly. Low tire pressure can lead to faster deterioration and reduced performance on the road.
2. Get your vehicle serviced
Although newer vehicles are becoming safer to drive, regular maintenance is required for every vehicle. Unless you’re a trained professional, it’s best to take your car to a mechanic and get it checked before winter weather conditions set in.
Your mechanic should look out for the following:
- Headlights and taillights: Since visibility worsens with blowing snow, freezing rain, early nightfall, and the glare from the sun reflecting off the snow, your vehicle lights need to be working effectively so other road users can see you.
- Car battery: A complete battery and electrical system check will help avoid having any problems starting the vehicle and running the wipers, heater, defroster, lights, and any other electrical component in your vehicle. Remember, old car batteries often die when the temperature drops significantly.
- Fluids: An oil change is standard procedure before the winter, but you should also replenish other vehicle fluids if needed. The most important fluids to check on are your oil, brake fluid, coolant, and windshield washer fluid.
3. Stock up on winter essentials
A winter survival kit is critical when choosing to drive under intense weather conditions. Severe snowstorms take place in Canada nearly every winter season. Even if you haven’t been stuck in the snow yet, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Must-haves for your winter survival kit:
- Ice scraper with a snow brush
- Extra washer fluid
- Small shovel
- Mixture of salt and sand (to melt ice)
- Booster cables
Other optional items:
- Cellphone charger
- First-aid kit
- Energy bars
- Heat packets and gloves
4. Replace your wiper blades
Windshield wipers are critical for making sure that you’re able to see the road ahead of you. After a few seasons of rain and snow, wiper blades will completely lose their effectiveness (and may even cause smudges that can obstruct visibility!). Look out for the following signs before the winter season:
- You constantly hear the wipers squeaking
- The frame of the wiper blade appears bent or damaged
- The wiper blades are not making constant contact with the windshield
- The rubber on the wiper blades has dried out and cracked
- The wipers leave streaks on the windshield
Each car’s make and model requires a specific wiper blade – do your research before buying. Although they’re simple to replace on your own, you may want to watch a few videos or read the owner’s manual before you attempt the replacement.
5. Protect your paint job
Brushing snow or scraping ice off your vehicle can also leave scratches on the paint. Having some form of shelter for your vehicle can help protect its polished exterior. However, since many people don’t have access to a garage or shelter, the next best option is learning how to correctly remove snow or ice from your car. Here are a few pointers:
- Work from the roof of the vehicle to the bottom of the sides
- Pull the snow to the edge of the vehicle, instead of pushing it across
- Use an ice scraper with a foam brush instead of a nylon brush to avoid scratches
- Use a long-handle snow brush to help you reach the entire roof of the vehicle
Another major cause of paint deterioration is rocky salt on the roads. Prevent permanent damage to your paint job by applying protective wax and washing your car regularly.
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