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Drivers should prepare now for winter's wrath

You may be dreading it, but we're plunging headlong into winter. And it only makes sense to prepare for it before it smacks you in the face.

You may be dreading it, but we’re plunging headlong into winter. And it only makes sense to prepare for it before it smacks you in the face.

As the seasons change, our vehicle preparation and our driving styles need to adjust. There are several common-sense maintenance tasks you should carry out to ensure that your vehicle will remain reliable and safe.

To increase the chances that your vehicle will start even on the coldest mornings, make sure your battery is in good shape and clean the terminals and cables. Your motor should be tuned.

Use a fuel that contains additives to prevent moisture from freezing in the fuel lines.

Visibility is vital to safe driving.

Make sure your windshield washer nozzles aren’t blocked and are aimed at the windshield.

Check that wiper blades are in excellent shape and that you have enough windshield-washer fluid.

Review your owner’s manual on the subject of clearing fog or frost off the inside of your windows efficiently.

Use your air conditioner in the winter as an effective dehumidifier.

At the top of the list for safe winter driving are winter tires. If you own a set with more than five years of service on them, it’s time for new ones — their grip deteriorates with age.

Tire tests have shown that winter tires can reduce stopping distances on ice by as much as 40 per cent. And, in cold temperatures, even on dry roads, winter tires will provide superior grip.

Starting at about 7C, all-season tires begin to lose grip compared to winter tires, which use a softer rubber compound.

And most people don’t realize that tires may be designated “all season” regardless of how poorly they perform on ice and snow.

All vehicles need four winter tires — that includes rear-wheel-drive, front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive vehicles. Never try to get through winter with only two winter tires.

AWD is a performance feature that only enhances acceleration. It is not a safety feature. The amount of grip you have for steering and braking depends solely on your tires, and you cannot improve a tire’s grip by simply putting drive power through it.

Along with preparing your vehicle for the extreme conditions of winter, you must also prepare your mind to adapt to conditions with limited traction.

Road conditions can change drastically in a matter of metres. You need to focus on driving in order to see changing conditions and then process that information into prudent adjustments.

Never drive wearing a heavy winter coat or boots.

There are documented crashes involving motorists who applied both the brake and gas pedal at the same time because they couldn’t feel the difference through their boots.

After removing all the snow and ice from your vehicle, take off your coat and boots and drive in shoes.

This will allow you to feel exactly how much pedal pressure you are applying and to which pedals.

Drive in a sweater or light coat.

You don’t need the added resistance from a bulky, heavy coat when trying to apply small, smooth steering corrections to remain in control.

Never drive anywhere in winter with less than half a tank of fuel.

If you run into conditions where you are stuck for hours waiting for help or for roads to clear, you don’t want to run out of fuel to keep you warm.

And every driver, including truckers and those with AWD, should always remember the golden rule: when traction decreases, so should your speed.


wheels@thestar.ca; ianlaw@carcontrolschool.com

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