Winter is a particularly tricky time for driving, especially in Canada. Weather conditions tend to be harsh – with temperatures dropping very low, a lot of snow and ice piling up on the road and vehicles and strong, bone-chilling wind, among other winter delights. As much as it all affects you as a driver, always have in mind that winter weather affects your vehicle as well. If you have a misbehaving vehicle, then your job as a driver becomes even more difficult, because as much as you possess the necessary skills to be a safe winter driver, your car might not let you execute every action you want with the swiftness and precision you need. Therefore, you need to prepare your car for winter weather and do the same for yourself. Here are all the big and little things you can do to drive safely in the winter.
According to the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Department of Transport Canada, getting ahead of troubles is only part of the job:
– Install winter tires and make sure they are in good condition (without or with minimal wear and tear) as well as that the wheels are in proper alignment
– Check the battery health and if posts and cable connections are corrosion-free and screwed on tightly
– Make sure fluid levels are optimal (battery, windshield wipers, oils, coolant) and low-temperature resistant
– Check the lights (both the bulbs and plastic covers)
– Thoroughly clean the car, especially the undercarriage, wheels and brakes
– Build an emergency kit (jumper cables or battery booster, tire inflation kit, tire chains, shovel or spade, road flares, flashlight, extra batteries, cell phone car charges, (electric) blanket, spare boots and change of clothes, bottled water and non-perishable foods);
2) Clear snow and ice from your vehicle
Make sure you clean all windows, mirrors, lights and the roof from the snow that has fallen overnight or during the day, so as not to endanger the other participants in traffic. If visibility becomes poor, find a place to safely pull off the road as soon as possible to clean the snow off. Also, wait for any foggy windows to clear up.
3) Keep a full tank of gas
Aside from helping in reducing moisture in the fuel system, a full gas tank also adds extra weight to your vehicle to slow it down. Most importantly, you will have enough fuel for slower driving, detours and turning back if needed.
4) Check the weather forecast regularly
Make sure you know what kind of weather conditions to expect when you leave the house. Environment Canada issues warnings when it expects:
– Winds – cause blizzard conditions, drifting, poor visibility and wind-chill effects;
– Cold snaps – rapid drops in temperature;
– Blizzards – the worst winter storms that can last 6 or more hours and bring falling, blowing and drifting snow, winds of 40+km/h, poor visibility and temperatures below -10°C;
– Heavy snow – can bring 10+cm in 12 hours or 15+cm in 24 hours;
– Freezing rain or drizzle – raindrops that freeze near the surface coating it in a coat of clear ice (glaze).
5) Drive slowly
If you must drive in during winter, check weather and travel conditions before heading out. Fog, black ice, slush or snow-covered roads can make driving dangerous, so you need to drive according to the road conditions around you and don’t rely on the estimated time of arrival your GPS gives you. Give yourself extra time for travel and, if the weather is bad, wait for conditions to improve. Always tell someone where you are going, the route you plan to take and when you expect to arrive. If you don’t arrive on time, and people are worried about your safety, they will know where to search for you. If driving becomes too risky, turn back or look for a safe place to stop until it is safe to drive.
6) Drive alertly and wear a seat belt
Don’t get behind the wheel if you don’t feel alert, well-rested and sober and always wear your seat belt. When worn correctly, seat belts save lives. Lap belts should be kept low and snug over the hips, while shoulder belts should always be worn across the chest. Children aged 12 and under should ride in the back seat, safely seated in a car seat or booster seat made for their size and age.
7) Wear comfortable clothes
It’s a good idea to layer up in the winter time, but having too many layers can restrict your movement and make it difficult to check your blind spot. Therefore, make sure your clothes are comfortable enough to allow you to drive safely.
8) Avoid using cruise control on slippery roads
It’s easy to lose control of your vehicle in bad weather if you rely on cruise control, so make sure you have a firm grip on the wheel at all times and that it’s you who directly dictates the car’s speed.
9) Find the best way to recover from a skid
How your vehicle responds to a skid depends on whether or not it has rear wheel, front wheel or four-wheel drive. If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), learn how to use it correctly.
10) Don’t hesitate to call for help
Always have a fully charged cell phone with you, especially during winter. That way you will be able to call for help in case of an emergency or in need of help. *911 is a free call. However, don’t talk, text or check social media and drive. Let someone with you make the call or pull over to a safe spot to place a call. Moreover, if you do a lot of winter driving in areas with poor reception, think about getting a citizen’s band (CB) radio. There is always someone listening, so you might be able to get the help that way.
CRS Automotive can help you with getting your car ready for winter weather, so don’t hesitate! Come to our repair shops in Hamilton and Stoney Creek today!