How To Get Your Car Ready for Winter

get your car ready for winter

Winter driving in Ottawa has many challenges, so it pays off to make sure your car is ready to face them. 

Heavy snow, treacherous ice patches, and salt all make life harder for you and your car. Going through the following checklist should ensure your car sails through winter easily.

1. Do I Need Snow Tires?

While they aren't required by law in Ontario, winter tires are your safest option to survive snow-ridden roads. Although they can be expensive, it’s much less expensive than repairing your car after an accident. You may even receive an insurance discount for installing them!

Contrary to all-season tires, winter tires are manufactured using a different rubber compound. This winter compound is softer, allowing for more road grip during the freezing winter temperatures. Many winter tire tread designs make use of strategic grooves that move snow to the side of the tire, allowing for more contact with the road's surface. 

If you've ever braved an Ottawa winter with all-seasons on, you understand how crucial it is to have control on a slippery road. You can read more about winter tires vs all-season tires here.

No matter what kind of tire you own, check the tread depth. Tread depth measures how deep the grooves are on your tire. If your tires are almost bald, they won't channel slush very well - this means less grip on the road.

2. How Do I Know If My Car Needs Antifreeze?

Antifreeze runs through your engine and radiator, preventing the coolant in your car from freezing - hence “antifreeze”. Due to cold winter temperatures, freezing is more common, making antifreeze essential for your car to function properly. Most types of antifreeze will contain rust inhibitors and detergents, protecting your engine from corrosion and debris buildup.

To find out if your car needs antifreeze, open the hood and look for the coolant reservoir - it should be marked to show full and empty levels. If you aren't sure where to look - open up your owner’s manual. There should be a clear description and process to reading the coolant level, as well as how to add antifreeze/coolant to your particular engine. 

3. What Should The Tire Pressure Be In Cold Weather?

Are you tired of seeing the low tire pressure light going off in your vehicle? It's meant to be annoying for a reason; low air pressure can be dangerous. You'll find it harder to brake and steer, while also making your engine work harder, burning more gas in the process.

Read through your owner's manual and find your car’s recommended tire pressure. Most modern cars will also have a sticker placed in or on the driver’s door jamb, which clearly states the recommended air pressure for your car. 

Although the average tire pressure should be from 30-35 PSI, it's often recommended to operate with slightly higher pressures (33-40 PSI) in cold weather. A good rule of thumb to remember is for every 10-degree drop in air temperature, tire pressure will drop 1 PSI. 

4. What Are Winter Windshield Wipers?

The only difference between winter and summer windshield wipers is winter wipers are manufactured with a protective coating, preventing a buildup of ice and slush within the functioning parts of the wiper.

Make sure your wiper blades are ready to handle snow, ice and salt without streaking or chattering. If they're hard, cracked, or torn and prevent you from seeing clearly, it's a huge safety hazard. Sunlight, rain and sleet harden the rubber in your wiper blades over time, and it's not unheard of to change wiper blades yearly.

5. How Do I Keep My Battery From Dying In Cold Weather?

Cold weather drains battery life fast! A fully-charged battery can survive up to -50°C while a low charged battery can freeze at -1°C. Cold weather will also slow down the movement of oil within the engine, making your car harder to start (See point 7 below).

Get your technician to ensure your battery can handle Ottawa's cold winter months. Have the terminals inspected for corrosion, dirt and debris and ensure the cables, belts and hoses are all firmly connected.

Another way to keep your battery from dying is to purchase a quality battery charger. You can perform maintenance charges, also known as "trickle" charges, which send a small charge to your battery to maintain full battery life.

A practical way to keep your battery happy during cold temperatures is by parking your vehicle in the garage, away from cold winds. Also, don't immediately turn on your car lights and crank your heating. Give your alternator time to charge the car battery instead of overextending it. 

6. What Should Be In A Winter Emergency Car Kit?

In case of an accident or car malfunction, you should be equipped with an emergency kit to prepare you for winter-related situations.

Your winter emergency kit should include:

  • Ice scrapers

  • Snowbrush

  • A shovel

  • Flashlight

  • Sand, salt or gravel

  • Jumper cables

  • Warm blankets and extra jackets

  • Extra flat-soled boots

  • Energy food, like nuts or protein bars

Here's a more in-depth article on a complete emergency car kit.

7. How Do I Know If My Block Heater Is Bad?

On those cold winter nights where the temperature drops, the oil in your engine begins to thicken and become gluey, making your car engine harder to start in the morning. Having a block heater that works is essential

Inspect the block heater plug and make sure it's not corroded - if it is, the cable from the plug to the block heater can overheat, melt, or even catch fire. While you're at it, check the extension cord you usually use to the plugin as well. Salt from the plug may have corroded the receiving end of the cable.

8. How Do I Keep My Washer Fluid From Freezing?

To avoid your washer fluid from freezing, buy freeze-resistant washer fluid. Ensure you're not mixing your summer washer fluid with your winter fluid, which will result in freezing. Drain your fluid system and add new freeze-resistant fluid.

Also, parking your car inside a garage is the easiest way to avoid anything in your car from freezing.

9. How Do I Protect My Car From Road Salt?

To keep your car from rusting in the winter, apply rustproofing treatments to the undercarriage of your car. If you're serious about your car protection, perform the treatment twice a year. For most drivers, once a year works too.

Something to also consider is a rust protection film. It's an invisible layer of plastic that not only keeps your paint looking new, but it also protects against tiny scratches that can lead to rust. It can extend your car's longevity and save you thousands of dollars in rust repair work.

Winter Accident? Choose Bemac!

The last thing you want is to be stuck by the side of the road in the cold, so ensure your car is ready for anything. If all else fails, have Bemac's towing hotline number (613-728-1908) should anything go wrong.

Our Bemac collision repair shop can handle all your seasonal maintenance needs, so book an appointment soon to get your preferred date and time.

 

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