Dread winter driving? Being prepared is the key. But would you know what to do if you got stranded or found yourself driving through heavy snow? Follow this advice – and download our Winter Driving Safety Checklist to print out and make sure you're prepared.
A winter car tune-up can help reduce your worries about winter driving. Take it to a garage for a tune-up and inspection to help prevent problems. Make sure that your brakes work well to prevent skidding. Cooling and electrical systems must be in good working condition. Put fresh anti-freeze in, and make sure that all electrical connections are clean and tight, especially if your car's battery is getting old. Remember, cold weather is hard on batteries.
If you want your car to start every time, make sure your engine is checked for faulty wiring, worn spark plugs, a sticking choke, or emission control devices that need attention.
Don't neglect the exhaust system. To avoid carbon monoxide leaks when the windows are closed, check the muffler and tail pipe system. Heaters, defrosters, and wipers should be in good working condition to keep your windshield clean for good visibility of the road and traffic around you. Make sure oil and filters are clean!
To increase traction in soft snow, consider investing in good snow tires. And check your tire pressure regularly. Keep in mind that for every 5°C of temperature drop, tire pressure drops one pound. In some provinces, such as Quebec, snow tires are mandatory for the winter and violation of this law could result in a fine.
Don't forget to keep a full gas tank at all times, as it will help reduce condensation and prevent the gas line from freezing. So fuel up!
What's in the trunk? You should have winter equipment to keep you weather-ready:
- windshield scraper and snow brush
- sand or kitty litter (in a bag, of course!)
- wire traction mat or other abrasive material
- box of facial tissues
- spare tire
- wheel wrench and jack
- first aid kit
- battery jumper cables
- road flares
And, if you have a long trip ahead, make sure you check the weather forecast and road conditions, and don't forget to pack:
- a warm blanket
- candles and a lighter or matches
- non-perishable food
- warm clothing (e.g., winter boots, hat)
Remember to exercise extra caution when driving in the winter.
- Buckle up, stay alert, and pay attention to the unsafe actions of other drivers and poor driving conditions.
- Make sure that the snow and ice is cleared from your car.
- Slow down and allow more travel time.
- Leave a greater distance between you and the car ahead of you, as an icy road requires double the stopping distance of a dry road.
- Be in control of the steering wheel at all times and avoid using cruise control.
- To make your car more visible to other drivers, use your low-beam headlights. They are brighter than daytime running lights, and having them on activates the taillights.
- Know what to do when road conditions are icy. Remember, you can't see black ice! If you start skidding, stay calm, steer in the direction where you want your car to go, don't touch the brakes, and don't accelerate. To disconnect the driving force on the drive wheels, shift to neutral if you have an automatic transmission or put your foot on the clutch if you're using a manual transmission.
- If you get stranded in the car during a snowstorm, get off the road, put your emergency flashers on to make sure you are visible, and stay in your car until help arrives or the storm subsides. Check the exhaust pipe to make sure that the snow is not blocking it. To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, leave a window slightly open.
Print out our Winter Driving Safety Checklist and use it to make sure you're well prepared for the winter roads.
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