Those of us who live in cold weather climates know we need to prep our homes for the winter but many neglect their cars. Winter travel can be a major hassle, if not downright hazardous, but taking a few simple steps to prepare your car for the weather can make nasty conditions safer and a lot more tolerable.
Start by checking your tires. You want the best grip possible on snowy or icy roads. The more tread you have on your tires the safer travel will be. Take a look at the grooves in your tires and make sure that the tire has not worn down to the tire wear bars. Wear bars are ridges of rubber that run perpendicular to the grooves on your tires. If your tires are past this point, you should replace them.
Investing in a set of snow tires is a smart thing to do in our Canadian climate. If you have a rear wheel drive car or high performance sport tires it is a necessity to stay safe. The main problem with rear wheel drive cars is that there is not much weight positioned over the rear of the car, hence not much pressure on the rear wheels to keep them from skidding. You can counter this problem by installing snow tires and by adding some weight to the trunk of your car.
In the warmer months high performance tires are great because they are designed to stick like glue to dry pavement. But even slightly slick roads become dangerous when using them. If you want to take care of your fancy high performance wheels and not use them in the winter, you should invest in a set of snow tires mounted on inexpensive wheels.
Once you have your tires sorted make sure you’re visibility is optimal too. Replace your windshield wipers. They will be in heavy use during the cold, snowy months so it’s best to have a fresh set from the start. During the winter you should also check your washer fluid every time you fill up for gas. If you are going on a long trip, make sure you have a spare gallon of washer fluid in your trunk in case you run low. It can make the difference between a safe journey and a dangerous one.
Breaking down in the cold can be very dangerous. Get a check up before it gets cold. Bring it into the shop to make sure your engine is in good shape. Your mechanic should check the belts, hoses, battery and coolant. Also consult your owner’s manual to see if they recommend using lower weight oil during cold months.
Always carry an emergency kit just in case something happens and you find yourself stranded (even for only a short time). What you have with you in these situations can make the difference between a simple delay and a matter of survival. You should have: a flashlight with spare batteries, an ice scraper for clearing your windshield, sand or gravel for traction, jumper cables, a blanket and gloves, and always carry your mobile phone.