Prep My Ride: Getting Ready for Winter

This is the Great White North, after all, so it is imperative drivers take a few simple steps to prep their ride before the snow flies.

If you grew up in the age of big lapels and bell bottoms, there’s a good chance you heard about people ‘preparing’ their car for winter. Forty years ago, it was necessary to tune the carburetor and make sure the ignition system was in good shape. Now, these tasks on our cars are taken care of by modern electronics.

Don’t think, though, that just because we live in an age of awesome technology we’re off the hook in getting our cars ready for the coldest months. This is the Great White North, after all, so it is imperative drivers take a few simple steps to prep their ride before the snow flies.

Visibility is Vital

If your car’s wipers are leaving any residue or streaking their way across the windshield, ditch them for a new pair. Make sure to buy the correct size and if you’re not sure about how they attach to the wiper arms, don’t be shy – ask for help. Most auto parts stores will install them for free.

Also be sure to use up all the pink windshield washer fluid in your car. That liquid is great for busting bugs in the summertime but freezes quickly when the mercury drops below zero degrees. Instead, fill the under hood reservoir with washer fluid that’s tinted blue. This is the stuff that has been tested and guaranteed to withstand extremely cold temperatures, usually around the -40C mark.

Rubber Meets the Road

We’re no stranger to advocating the use of winter tires on a vehicle, no matter how many driven wheels it has. Taking this opportunity to repeat our exhortations, winter tires have two distinct advantages over their fair-weather brethren: mechanical features and molecular attributes.

The tread blocks of a winter tire are designed to cut through snow and slush, evacuating the liquid that can get in between the tire tread and road surface. Using technology called sipes, they create a solid contact patch that’ll give you control under acceleration, braking, and turning.

Molecularly, a winter tire is made up of different rubber compounds than an all-season tire, allowing it to remain malleable when the ambient temperature drops to levels seen only on the surface of Hoth or the Canadian Prairies. Without this flexibility, a tire will simply skate over the ice and snow rather than grip it. This generally sends a car into the nearest snowbank.

Charged Up

At -20C degrees, a standard car battery generally only has about half the cranking power that it has at +20C degrees. This is why parking lots are sometimes filled with the forlorn sound of engines barely cranking over – followed quickly by the sound of colourful language from the driver – when the weather is extremely cold.

A sure-fire way to beat this no-start condition is to get a battery built for frigid weather. Deploying technology which allows it to retain a charge even on the coldest of nights, these batteries are designed to deliver powerful and reliable starting in deep-freeze temperatures. They’ll also provide the extra energy demanded to run power-hungry accessories like heated seats.

Pack it Up, Pack it In

Consider putting together a bug-out bag filled with a few essential emergency supplies. Yes, we know space in your trunk is at a premium; Costco runs don’t take care of themselves, after all. However, a well-packed kit can often be snugged in the spare tire compartment or under one of the front seats.

Auto Know: What are Early Hybrids like as Used Vehicles?

A basic first aid kit, bivvy blankets, and a few high-energy snacks will go a long way if the unthinkable happens and you get trapped in the car for an extended length of time. It doesn’t hurt to toss a flashlight and disposable lighter in the glovebox, either. Tape a $20 bill to the inside of the glovebox lid, too. Seriously.

Cool Story, Bro

The cooling of a car actually does double duty. Once warmed up, some of it is diverted to the heater core, which uses the warm liquid to heat up the air you’ve commanded to come out of the dashboard vents in the car’s cabin. This helps explain why it takes a few minutes for your vehicle to blow warm air from its ventilation system.

While you’re filling up the windshield washer reservoir with the proper fluid (remember Tip #1 above?), give the various hoses and rubber parts under the hood a cursory glance. If they look haggard, make an appointment with your mechanic for a further inspection. With the engine turned off and cold, one should still be able to squeeze these rubber hoses like a fresh melon. Stiff and brittle radiator hoses could spell trouble down the road. Waiting for a tow truck always seems longer when it’s cold, by the way.

Feeling Gassy

It’s never a good idea to run your car with the fuel gauge constantly exploring the other side of the Empty mark. Perpetually scraping the paint off the ‘E’ is hard on several mechanical components, including the fuel pump and fuel filter.

During the winter, try and get into the habit of keeping at least a half tank of fuel in your car at all times. The last thing a driver wants to see during a December traffic jam on the 401, with nowhere to exit and vehicles at a standstill, is a low-fuel light. There’s also the chance of a power outage during and immediately after a severe winter storm, at which time gas stations won’t be able to dispense fuel from their electric pumps.

If one is properly equipped, the winter months can be a great time of year. Drive safely, drive defensively, and be prepared.

Auto Know: What are Early Hybrids like as Used Vehicles?

Pack it Up, Pack it In

Auto Know: What are Early Hybrids like as Used Vehicles?

Consider putting together a bug-out bag filled with a few essential emergency supplies. Yes, we know space in your trunk is at a premium; Costco runs don’t take care of themselves, after all. However, a well-packed kit can often be snugged in the spare tire compartment or under one of the front seats.

Auto Know: What are Early Hybrids like as Used Vehicles?

A basic first aid kit, bivvy blankets, and a few high-energy snacks will go a long way if the unthinkable happens and you get trapped in the car for an extended length of time. It doesn’t hurt to toss a flashlight and disposable lighter in the glovebox, either. Tape a $20 bill to the inside of the glovebox lid, too. Seriously.

Cool Story, Bro

The cooling of a car actually does double duty. Once warmed up, some of it is diverted to the heater core, which uses the warm liquid to heat up the air you’ve commanded to come out of the dashboard vents in the car’s cabin. This helps explain why it takes a few minutes for your vehicle to blow warm air from its ventilation system.

While you’re filling up the windshield washer reservoir with the proper fluid (remember Tip #1 above?), give the various hoses and rubber parts under the hood a cursory glance. If they look haggard, make an appointment with your mechanic for a further inspection. With the engine turned off and cold, one should still be able to squeeze these rubber hoses like a fresh melon. Stiff and brittle radiator hoses could spell trouble down the road. Waiting for a tow truck always seems longer when it’s cold, by the way.

Feeling Gassy

It’s never a good idea to run your car with the fuel gauge constantly exploring the other side of the Empty mark. Perpetually scraping the paint off the ‘E’ is hard on several mechanical components, including the fuel pump and fuel filter.

During the winter, try and get into the habit of keeping at least a half tank of fuel in your car at all times. The last thing a driver wants to see during a December traffic jam on the 401, with nowhere to exit and vehicles at a standstill, is a low-fuel light. There’s also the chance of a power outage during and immediately after a severe winter storm, at which time gas stations won’t be able to dispense fuel from their electric pumps.

If one is properly equipped, the winter months can be a great time of year. Drive safely, drive defensively, and be prepared.

Auto Know: What are Early Hybrids like as Used Vehicles?

  • FILED UNDER
  • used cars
  • Winter Driving Tips
  • Winter Tires
  • Safety Tips
  • winter
  • maintenance
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