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Blog – Under the Hood

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November 12, 2020

Winter Maintenance and Safety Checklist For Safer Winter Driving

Well, it’s November and here in Alberta, that means the snow is just about ready to fall (if it hasn’t already been in your area). November means snow and snow means it’s essential to do a routine winter maintenance check on your vehicle. Breaking down on the side of the road is bad enough, but breaking down when it’s -30 is so much worse. 

Winter driving is dangerous so it’s really important to make sure your car is ready for the challenges that the cold weather brings. 

Follow this checklist before the snow and throughout the winter to maintain performance, safety and smoother winter driving. 

BEFORE WINTER

Have Your Heaters Checked

There is nothing worse than leaving the comforts of your warm cozy house expecting a warm cozy car and finding the opposite. A broken heater makes for one frosty ride to work in the morning. Not to mention the same system that warms your interior, also defrosts your windows. So make sure the heater is in working condition to keep yourself warm and your windows clear. 

Have Your Battery Checked

If you drive a car then you know that you’re not going to get far with a dead battery. The extreme cold temperatures that we are so blessed to have here in Northern Alberta have a huge impact on your car battery. If you’re starting off the winter with a bad battery, chances are it’s going to fail you as soon as the first really cold day hits. Have them checked as part of your winter maintenance routine and avoid the need to bug the neighbour for a boost (or a ride). 

Have Your Radiator Checked

Much like your battery, your rad plays an essential part in your car running. A rad with low antifreeze (or poor quality) could leave you with a frozen radiator, potential leaks or cracks and even a failing transmission. It’s important to always keep an eye on your antifreeze levels and have it looked at if you suspect a leak. 

Check Your Wipers, Fluids & Lights

Winter brings along darker days (and shorter ones), ice, snow, mud and poor driving conditions all around. During your routine winter maintenance, make sure you are looking at your wipers, all fluids and lights. Those darker days and early sunsets mean you’ll spend a lot more time driving around in the dark. Fogged up headlights make you harder to see and if there is blowing or heavy falling snow, you may be totally unseen by other cars on the road. This can become a huge hazard and should be avoided. If you try a headlight restoration kit and it’s just not cutting it, consider replacing your headlights completely or getting brighter bulbs like LEDs. 

Check your wipers for cracks or broken/damaged rubber. Just like early sunsets, the winter months bring a lot more road dirt and grime. Not being able to properly clear your windshield because of a faulty wiper could cause some serious problems. If your wipers are old, falling apart or just not of great quality, change them out for a new pair that work well and are meant for the ice, snow and cold temperatures. 

Top up all your fluids to avoid doing it in the cold, fill your washer fluid with a winter appropriate one and have an oil change done. 

Get The Right Winter Tires Installed

While all-seasons might be okay in some places, living in a place with long, cold, harsh winters and lots of snow, we highly suggest investing in good quality winter tires. A few things to consider before just buying the first set of tires you find on sale are: 

  • Where do you drive during the winter? 
    • Are you travelling highways, city roads or back roads? 
    • Will those roads be well travelled by other cars or ploughed? 
  • What do you drive during the winter?
    • Are you in a small compact car that is likely to skid on slippery roads?
    • Are you driving with only 2 wheel drive (or do you have 4 wheel drive)?
    • Are you driving a truck or SUV?
  • What is the weather like where you are?
    • Are the roads more icy or snow covered during the winter? 

Choosing the right snow tire is important for safety. If you choose a tire that does well in the snow but not the ice and you’re constantly travelling down icy roads then you might as well install skis. If you’re not sure which winter tire is right for your car and driving conditions, simply ask questions at the shop you choose to buy from, or do a little research beforehand. 

DURING THE WINTER

Once your car is equipped with new wipers, solid winter tires and a working heater you’re ready for safer winter driving. During the winter, there are still some important things to keep in mind to stay on top of your winter maintenance. While most of it is done before, some things to do throughout the season are: 

  • Follow a regular oil change schedule
  • Keep a jug (or two) of extra washer fluid in your trunk. You never know when it’s going to run out. 
  • Wash the exterior of your car regularly to avoid serious ice buildup and rust from salt on the roads
  • Keep an emergency kit in your car and if you use any items from the kit, replace them right away. 
  • Keep an eye on your winter tires. Make sure their tread is still good and they are inflated to the proper PSI at all times. 
  • Never let your gas tank get too low.
  • Don’t fall for the “warming your car up myth”. Your car does not need to run for 15 minutes to “warm up” before heading down the road. A few minutes is all it needs and the engine will warm up as you drive. 

Keep yourself, your car and others on the road safe with routine winter maintenance. Keep your vehicle in good running condition and eliminate the number of mornings you show up to the office late or in a cab.

If despite your best efforts and good maintenance you still end up in a collision and require repairs, contact a trustworthy auto body shop to get that bumper fixed and looking new. Contact CSN JD Collision and we’ll straighten it out.