This guide is a checklist for your car’s winter maintenance and will help you drive around safely when the cold season arrives.
One of the things I may never really get used to in Canada is the harsh winters we experience in places like Winnipeg – where I live. Harsh winters are a part and parcel of living in Canada especially if you reside in the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and certainly in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The other provinces can also be pretty bad depending on how the winter plays out in any particular year.
If you live in any of the provinces above, you should and need to consider winterizing your vehicle for winter to avoid ugly surprises.
Winter is coming. – Ned Stark (Game of Thrones)
10 Simple Winter Car Care Tips
1. Winter Tires
When the temperature drops below 7⁰C, winter tires perform the best. Although all-season tires marked as M+S (Mud and Snow) can legally be used in winter in most provinces, it’s not advisable. Winter tires are specifically made for harsh winter conditions, have more traction, and will stop quicker in an emergency.
In addition, ensure the air pressure is at recommended levels. Check air pressure on a monthly basis and adjust as required.
2. Oil Change
If you have not had an oil change done, now is the time to do so! There are specific oil types recommended for winter conditions because they have less viscosity (thinner) and will help the engine work more efficiently.
3. Battery Check
Batteries generally start to die after about 4 years of use or earlier when used mostly in hot weather conditions. Have your battery tested and ensure it has enough power to start your engine on a frigid -35⁰C morning.
Additionally, check the cable connections, remove corrosion, and tighten to ensure good contact.
4. Windshield Wiper Blades
Wiper blades break down over time and should be regularly examined for wear and tear. There are also wiper blades specifically designed for handling snow, ice, and other stresses of the winter months.
5. Washer Fluid
If you are in the habit of using water as your windshield washer during the spring and winter months, beware! For winter, you need a washer fluid that can withstand extremely cold conditions, ideally down to -40⁰C.
6. Block Heater
Check that your car’s block heater is working before winter comes. If you park within a well-insulated or heated garage, plugging in your car may not be required. However, outside parking in temperatures below -15⁰C for extended periods requires that you warm up your car engine for a few hours. This will ensure the engine starts up and warms up faster.
Plug-in the car for about 4 hours before starting up. A block heater timer can help you save on the amount of electricity used.
7. Coolant Check
Ensure the coolant in your car is at appropriate levels and in good condition.
8. Car Floor Mats
Rubber mats designed for your car’s make and model can help to hold the snow that you transfer into your car and which melts when the car is in use. They are easy to clean up and should be cleaned/drained often.
9. General Tune-Up
Fall is a good time to tune-up your car in general. Check the brakes, belts, filters, ignition system, heater/defrosting systems, lights, etc.
10. Emergency Kit
Emergencies happen! Always be prepared for getting stuck in a snowstorm or your car breaking down when you are out in the middle of nowhere. Carry an emergency kit stocked with first aid supplies, flashlight, thick blanket, booster cables, ice scraper, a small shovel, snow brush, emergency reflectors, candles, matches/lighter, etc. I also add granola bars!