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Winter Driving Guide

This winter, don’t get caught in the cold

Don’t let last winter’s benevolence lull you into a false sense of security.

Published October 29, 2012

Don’t let last winter’s benevolence lull you into a false sense of security — that sage icon of prediction, The Farmer’s Almanac, is hinting that a true Canadian winter is lurking just around the corner.

The patio furniture and lawn mower have been stored, extra quilts thrown on the bed and the furnace is just waiting to be fired up. All that remains is to ensure that your faithful daily driver is ready for winter too.

Breaking down is never a good thing but in winter it could even prove fatal. So it’s a good idea to ensure that your car is in good working order.

Have it tuned up before that first snowfall, not only will it run more efficiently, your chances of stalling are reduced. Make sure that drive belts and hoses are all in good condition, since older rubber loses its flexibility in the cold and is more prone to breakage.

Hat’s off to you if you’ve already acquired a set of genuine winter tires — the peace of mind they provide is well worth the investment. Not only do their deeper treads bite into the snow — the rubber compounds remain flexible and grippy when the mercury dips below zero.

Cold air causes molecules to compress — including the air in your tires. Inflate them to their recommended pressure, they’ll not only perform better, but your fuel economy will improve too. That goes for your spare, and make sure you’ve got a proper jack and tire iron in the trunk.

Most batteries are good for three or four years. Have yours tested to be sure it still holds a charge and keep jumper cables in the trunk just in case. Remember — positive to positive terminal (distinguished by a plus sign and often with a red connector), and negative to negative.

A thinner oil such as 5W30 will keep your engine lubricated better in cold temperatures. Oil is categorized by viscosity — a 10W40 oil rated for summer use may be too thick to circulate easily in extreme cold.

Brakes should checked — you want to be sure you can stop when you need to.

Engine coolant should be replaced with a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water. Having the right ratio will keep the coolant — and your engine — from freezing in below zero temperature.

Flying snow and sleet can severely impair your ability to see if your wipers aren’t up to the task. Rubber that’s cracked or warped won’t clear your windshield efficiently — to be on the safe side, replace them. Keep extra windshield fluid on hand — you’ll use more than in the warm weather and it’s great for de-icing frozen wipers.

Lock de-icer also works great on stuck wipers and frozen fuel door locks.

A relatively full gas tank lessens your chances of running out of gas and prevents empty fuel lines from freezing. If the worst happens and you end up stuck or in a ditch, you’ll have enough fuel to run the engine every ten to fifteen minutes and stay warm.

Your winter emergency kit should include:

A broom (for brushing snow from windshields and off pedals)

A warm blanket

Flares

Extra engine fluids

A shovel to dig yourself out of snow, and sand, salt or kitty litter for traction

First aid kit

Flashlight

Warm clothes — boots, extra socks, gloves and hat.

Water and food such as granola bars

A few simple precautions should keep your driving worry-free this winter

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