No one wants to get into a hazardous winter driving situation with snow, ice, slush and cold – and then wish they had better prepared for those types of conditions. That is why we say the time to prepare your vehicle for winter is before winter arrives. Along with the antifreeze, battery check-ups and new wiper blades, an inspection of the tire tread should be a year-round practice, but especially as we prepare for potential slippery road conditions.
Winter driving is all about preparation, and the key to being ready for winter is taking the necessary steps to be safe before getting behind the wheel.
Match your driving speed to the current conditions. If conditions are challenging due to a slippery road surface or reduced visibility, decrease your speed. A slower driving speed allows more time for a necessary response.
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Additional factors to consider when adjusting speed are the condition of the vehicle, its tires and your driving abilities. Always keep the posted speed limits in mind, and understand that those limits indicate the maximum speed when weather conditions are good.
Plan ahead and try to anticipate potentially dangerous situations. When approaching a curve or potentially slick area of the road, use the brakes effectively. The brakes should be applied only before a curve and on a straight section of the road.
Be alert to other vehicles. Maintain enough distance between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. If someone else seems to be following too close to your vehicle, perhaps slow down to allow them to pass – rather than speeding up to achieve a safe, distance between vehicles.
If visibility is poor, remember to use your lights. This helps other drivers to see you when approaching or when following. You should always turn your lights on when your windshield wipers are on.
Set the vehicle cabin to a comfortable temperature. This can be a challenge during winter, but it is imperative to be comfortable when driving. Cabin comfort includes keeping the windows free of frost, ice and snow.
Avoid overconfident driving, and avoid overestimating the vehicle's capability simply because it is equipped with anti-lock brakes, four-wheel drive, traction control or other safety devices. Do not allow good judgment and smart driving to be overtaken by a false sense of security provided by vehicle technology.
Before driving in inclement weather, be sure that your vehicle is properly maintained. Make sure your windshield wipers work properly; have the correct level of antifreeze for heating and defrosting the vehicle; keep plenty of gas in the tank; and always use required safety devices such as seatbelts.
When the temperatures start to drop, many drivers never question the need for a set of dedicated winter tires on their vehicle. This is because some of the benefits include added traction and control when the freezing weather arrives. No one wants to get stuck in their snowy driveway before work or get in a nasty accident because of icy roads.
The safety aspect may be the most attractive benefit for many drivers. Insurance deductibles and premiums are expensive and no one wants to see theirs go up. Winter tires improve performance and can save drivers money in the long run by possibly preventing costly accidents and repairs.
Here are a few considerations if you are shopping for new tires: Winter tires are exclusively designed to withstand cold, harsh temperatures unlike all-season tires. Once temps dip below 32 degrees, the rubber in all-season tires become rigid and that decreases their effectiveness (traction and cornering) on snowy and icy roads.
Even SUV’s with all-wheel drive can benefit from winter tires. These vehicles might get better acceleration on the wet surfaces because of having four or all wheel drive, but they won’t get the traction, braking and control they would get with winter tires.
Installing four winter tires is vital for realizing the full safety benefits, including traction and control on icy roads. Most winter tire manufacturers specifically say that installing only two winter tires – whether in the front or back of the vehicle - will drastically reduce the car’s performance. In some cases drivers may unexpectedly lose control of their vehicle because of the greater traction from the two winter tires.
Winter tires have different rubber compounds and their treads are specially designed to perform on snow covered and icy roads as well as in cold temperatures. The silica-based, micro pore compounds remain flexible in cold-to-freezing temperatures and that allows them to deliver 25-50% more traction in snow and ice than all-season tires. ABS braking also benefits, at 60 km per hour on snowy roads braking with winter tires is 42% shorter.
Drivers that install winter tires on their car can be confident they are getting value for every dollar they spend. That means the life of your all-season or summer tires is extended significantly. On average, winter tires tend to last around three years and that’s extra tread life for your other set of tires.
Winter Tires drastically improve driving safety during winter months, lowering the risk of accidents that could cost car owners thousands of dollars in repairs. The small upfront cost of four new winter tires is nothing compared to the benefits drivers will realize when the temperature drops and the roads are at their most dangerous.
Here’s a checklist to help reduce the chances of problems and increase safety.
Air filter: Inspect the filter for dirt and tears in the paper and replace if necessary. Typically, it’s a good idea to do this twice a year.
Anti-freeze: In the winter anti-freeze prevents freezing, which would overheat the engine as it would stop the flow of the coolant. Make sure you use the correct concentration.
Check your battery: Check your battery for corrosion and make sure the terminals are clean and dry. Keep the battery fully charged.
Inspect your brakes: Check your brakes and brake fluid twice a year to make sure everything is in order. If your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS) keep an eye on your dashboard indicator.
Check your headlights: Make sure they are free from damage and they are clean.
Check your engine oil: You can check your oil level and condition by removing the dipstick. If the oil looks black then it is time to do an oil change.
Windshield washer checks: Always ensure your washer container is topped up to the specified amount with windscreen washer fluid in winter.
Inspect your tires: With the hazards of black ice, snow and poor visibility in winter, it’s essential to make sure your tires are in good condition. Remember to check the spare too. Invest on a set of winter tires and rims.
Check your windshield: If you have any chips or cracks, it’s essential that you have these repaired straight away.
Windshield wipers: Wipers are essential in clearing the view through your windscreen, particularly in winter when grit and salt is thrown from the road onto your windscreen. Check for cracks or splitting and replace if required.