Make sure your vehicle is ready to face Old Man Winter
If you’re like us, living in Canada and already facing the not-so-humble beginnings of Winter, you’re probably wondering if you’ve done everything you need to in order for your vehicle to be ready to make it through the snowy season ahead.
Not to worry! We’ve put together the following list of 5 key preventative maintenance tasks to help ensure you’ll make it to Springtime without freezing your fingers off while waiting for a tow.
1. Traction, Traction, Traction!
e cannot stress this one enough. Unless you live in southern Florida where the temperature stays above zero degrees celsius (32°F) year round, chances are you should have a set of Winter tires. We can’t think of any worse Winter scenario than driving to see your family for the holidays, being caught in a snowstorm on worn out tires and sliding off the road, only to call the tow company and find out they’ll be over an hour because 5 other people have done the exact same thing. You can avoid this whole situation by ensuring you have appropriate Winter tires. (And cat litter - it’s a cheap and easy way to try and get yourself out of a slippery situation! It’s a good idea to keep some in your trunk through the Winter *just in case*)
If you already have a set of Winter tires from last year that you plan to put on again for this season, check them over carefully to ensure the tread is not worn down too far and the rubber has not dried out and cracked. To gauge whether your tires have sufficient tread left to get you through another Winter, you’ll need a quarter. Find a spot on the tire where the tread appears to be the most worn down and insert the quarter into the tread head-first. If you are not able to see any of the head, you have a safe amount of tread left to use the tires for this Winter. If your tread is too worn down, or you don’t have a set of winter tires at all, check out our wide selection of Winter tires from top brands at the lowest prices.
Traction Tip: For every 10° that the outside air pressure drops, your tire pressure decreases by about one pound. If your tires are under-inflated, it can result in poor fuel-economy, faster tire wear and also cause a loss of traction! Be sure to regularly check your tire pressure as the temperature fluctuates to ensure your tires are well-inflated.
2. Change your oil
Certainly not something many of us think of as “winter maintenance”, since this is just regular vehicle maintenance, right? BUT this is something you can do to greatly improve your vehicle’s performance through the winter! Switching from regular old “dinosaur” (conventional) oil to a synthetic oil is a great move to make in general (if it’s appropriate for your vehicle) but it’s especially beneficial in the Winter months. This is because synthetic oil moves more freely at lower temperatures than conventional oil, which means your chances of slow, sluggish cold starts in the dead of Winter are greatly reduced! It also doesn’t need to warm up in order to be fully efficient which means no more waiting for the car to warm up before you can take off (though you may still want to in order to let your heat kick in and keep your feet warm!). You can also opt for a synthetic blend which is a mixture of synthetic and conventional oil, which would also help for a smoother start on those very cold days.
3. Check fluid levels
It’s a good idea to check your different fluid levels every so often to ensure you aren’t low on anything. But there are a few specifically that you should address for the cold weather.
Antifreeze (could you have guessed this is one we’d want to talk about?) is so important in the Winter months because, as its name suggests, it is what keeps your engine’s cooling system from freezing. Antifreeze (also known as coolant) mixes with water to run through your engine and keep the system from overheating. As you can guess, antifreeze keeps the water from freezing in your engine. So, if your antifreeze is low, you won’t be getting the right mixture, which could result in some very expensive damage to your engine. Be sure to ask your mechanic the next time you’re at the shop to test your system’s antifreeze strength. You can also check the reservoir in your engine bay and top up your coolant if it is not to the suggested fill line.
Another fluid you want to make sure you have on hand is windshield washer fluid. Is there anything worse than driving behind someone, being sprayed with the slush and sand off of the road and then running out of windshield washer fluid so you can barely see? We’ve all been there. So, consider this your reminder to grab some windshield washer fluid (extra points if you get the de-icer kind!) and leave it in your trunk for the season.
Pro Tip: though it isn’t really a fluid level to check, it’s a great idea to run some fuel-injector cleaner through your system to make sure to flush out any water from your fuel system before the cold weather makes it freeze and cause performance issues. At your next fill up, just add the cleaner into your gas tank and let it work its magic.
4. Check your rad cap
That antifreeze we just talked about isn’t going to do you much good if it’s escaping out your radiator cap. The rad cap is so important because it is what keeps the whole cooling system pressurized and determines the boiling point of the coolant. But it is very common for them to wear over time and start to allow slow leaks. Not only that but it can also cause the engine to overheat because it isn’t maintaining the right temperature for the cooling system. While all of this may sound very scary and overwhelming, luckily for you, the radiator cap is extremely cheap and easy to replace. They usually cost under $10 and can be replaced right in your driveway. Just wait for your engine to be completely cool before removing the old one to inspect/replace it, or you’ll have coolant spewing out all over the place!
5. Visibility is key
This may be the simplest tip of this whole list. Obviously we always need to see where we’re driving, but this becomes especially difficult in the Winter months. With it getting dark earlier, chances are you’re driving home from work in the dark these days, so make sure to replace any dim or burnt out headlight bulbs. This is also a good time to replace your windshield wiper blades so that the windshield washer fluid we talked about earlier doesn’t end up just smearing dirt across your windshield!
We hope you found this list helpful and be sure to let us know if you have any Winter prep tips that we missed! Drive safe.