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HomeDriver's Resources25 Safety tips for winter driving in Canada

Driving in Canadian winters can be challenging due to snow, ice, and rapidly changing conditions. Here are some essential winter driving safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Prepare Your Vehicle:
    • Winter Tires: Install good quality winter tires. They provide better traction than all-season tires in snowy and icy conditions.
    • Battery: Cold temperatures can reduce your battery’s effectiveness. Ensure it’s fully charged and in good condition.
    • Windshield Fluid: Use winter-grade fluid that won’t freeze.
    • Lights: Ensure all lights are clean and functioning to maximize visibility.
    • Emergency Kit: Carry essentials like a snow shovel, jumper cables, blanket, extra clothing, non-perishable food, water, flashlight, and a first-aid kit.
  2. Plan Ahead:
    • Check the Weather: Before heading out, review the weather forecast and road conditions. If conditions are too dangerous, consider postponing your trip.
    • Plan Your Route: Familiar routes may be safer as you know where potential hazards might be. Also, inform someone of your plans and expected arrival time.
  3. Reduce Speed: Adjust your speed to the road conditions. Slower speeds allow more time to react to unexpected situations.
  4. Increase Following Distance: It takes longer to stop on snowy and icy roads. Keep a safe distance from vehicles ahead.
  5. Avoid Sudden Movements: Quick actions can cause skids. Make smooth and gradual steering, braking, and accelerating motions.
  6. Use Brakes Wisely:
    • For vehicles with anti-lock brakes (ABS), press the brake pedal firmly and hold it. You might feel the brakes pulse, which is normal.
    • For vehicles without ABS, use the threshold braking method. Keep your heel on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  7. Know How to Handle Skids:
    • Front-wheel skid: Release the gas pedal and shift into neutral. As the tires regain grip, steer in the direction you want to go and put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch and gently accelerate.
    • Rear-wheel skid: Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If the rear wheels are sliding left, steer left, and vice versa.
  8. Stay Visible: Turn on your lights to help other drivers see you, even during daylight. If you pull over, turn on hazard lights.
  9. Clear Snow and Ice: Remove snow and ice from your vehicle’s windows, mirrors, lights, and roof.
  10. Be Cautious of Black Ice: It’s nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle or is overlooked entirely. It can be especially prevalent in shaded areas, overpasses, and bridges.
  11. Be Prepared to Stay Put: If conditions are too dangerous, pull over safely and wait for conditions to improve.
  12. Stay Calm in a Storm: If you get caught in a snowstorm, turn on your hazard lights, reduce speed, and maintain a safe following distance. If visibility becomes too poor or you feel it’s too risky to continue, find a safe place to pull over until conditions improve.
  13. Understand Your Vehicle: Familiarize yourself with how your vehicle handles in winter conditions, especially if it has features like all-wheel drive (AWD) or electronic stability control.
  14. Avoid Using Cruise Control: In winter conditions, you want to have complete control over your vehicle. Using cruise control on icy or snowy roads can increase the risk of skidding.
  15. Keep Your Fuel Tank Half Full: A fuller tank prevents fuel line freeze-up. Plus, you’ll have enough fuel to keep warm if you get stranded.
  16. Dress Warmly: Even if your trip is short, be prepared for the worst. Wear layers, gloves, a hat, and winter boots. If you get stuck, you’ll be grateful for the extra warmth.
  17. Avoid Overconfidence: Even if you have a vehicle equipped with AWD or four-wheel drive, don’t get overconfident. These systems improve traction but don’t help with braking on icy roads.
  18. Know the Roads: Some roads may not be regularly plowed or salted. Secondary roads, rural areas, or infrequently traveled routes can be especially dangerous.
  19. Bridges and Overpasses: They tend to freeze before other parts of the roadway. Approach them with caution and avoid sudden changes in speed or direction.
  20. Stay Informed on the Go: Listen to local radio or use mobile apps to stay updated on road conditions and closures. Authorities will provide information on accidents, road closures, or recommend alternate routes.
  21. Use Engine Braking: In manual transmission vehicles, downshifting can help reduce speed without using the brakes, reducing the chance of skidding.
  22. Signal Early: Let other drivers know your intentions well in advance. This is especially important if you plan to change lanes or turn.
  23. If Stranded: Stay with your vehicle unless you see a clear and nearby source of help. Run the engine periodically for heat but ensure the exhaust is clear of snow to prevent carbon monoxide buildup inside the vehicle.
  24. Travel in Packs: If possible, travel with other vehicles. If one vehicle gets stuck, the other can provide immediate assistance.
  25. Watch for Pedestrians: Winter conditions make it harder for drivers to stop and harder for pedestrians to walk. Watch for people walking along the road, and give them plenty of space.

Winter driving requires extra attention, patience, and skill. It’s always best to err on the side of caution. If you’re ever in doubt about driving in winter conditions, it’s better to wait until conditions improve or seek an alternate mode of transportation. Safe travels!

How can I protect my car in winter Canada?

maintenance cost

Protecting your car during a Canadian winter is crucial, given the extreme cold, snow, ice, and road salts that can pose challenges to both the vehicle’s exterior and its mechanical components. Here’s how you can protect your car during the winter months:

  1. Winter Tires: These provide better traction and handling on icy and snowy roads. Check the tire pressure regularly, as cold temperatures can cause the air inside tires to contract, leading to under-inflation.
  2. Rust Protection:
    • Wash Your Car: Road salts can cause rusting. Wash your car frequently, focusing on the undercarriage, to remove salt and slush.
    • Rustproofing: Consider getting your vehicle rustproofed, especially the undercarriage, to protect against salt and moisture.
  3. Check Fluids:
    • Use winter-grade windshield washer fluid that won’t freeze.
    • Ensure that your antifreeze/coolant is appropriate for the winter months.
    • Consider using a winter-grade oil that remains fluid in colder temperatures.
  4. Battery Care: Cold temperatures can strain the battery. Check its charge and health before winter hits. Clean the terminals and ensure the connections are tight.
  5. Protect the Exterior:
    • Wax and Seal: Before winter, apply a good quality wax to your car’s exterior to provide a protective barrier against snow, ice, and road salts.
    • Windshield Treatment: Products like Rain-X can help repel snow and ice, making it easier to clear your windshield.
    • Car Covers: If you park outside, consider using a car cover to protect against snow and ice buildup.
  6. Maintain Visibility: Replace worn-out wiper blades with winter-specific blades. Ensure that heaters and defrosters are working properly.
  7. Protect the Interior:
    • Floor Mats: Use rubber or all-weather mats to prevent salt and moisture from damaging the car’s carpet.
    • Door Seals: Apply a silicone lubricant or rubber protectant to door seals to prevent them from freezing shut.
  8. Block Heater: If you live in an extremely cold region, consider using a block heater to warm the engine before starting, which can reduce strain on the engine and battery.
  9. Fuel: Keep your tank at least half full during the winter to prevent moisture from building up inside and to ensure you have enough fuel in case of emergencies.
  10. Emergency Kit: Store a winter emergency kit in your car. This should include items like jumper cables, a snow shovel, blankets, gloves, non-perishable food, a flashlight, and any other essentials that can aid in case you get stranded.
  11. Regular Inspections: Periodically check brakes, belts, hoses, and other systems for wear. Catching a small problem early can prevent a bigger issue in the middle of winter.
  12. Parking: Whenever possible, park in a garage or under a shelter to protect your car from snow and ice.
  13. Lubricate Locks and Hinges: Apply a lubricant to prevent them from freezing.

The key to protecting your car in winter is regular maintenance and taking preventive measures. Being proactive will not only keep your car in good shape but also enhance safety when driving in challenging winter conditions.

About the Author: Valerie D. Hahn

Valerie is an insurance editor, journalist, and business professional at RateLab. She has more than 15 years of experience in personal financial products. She strives to educate readers and ensure that they are properly protected.

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