How To: Prepare Your Car for Winter

Now that a blanket of white has covered the city — enough to enable the opening of several nearby ski hills — Calgarians are starting to utter that six letter word that some delight in and others dread: winter. For those who have one, your vehicle is an important tool in the winter season which you rely on to get you from point A to point B in wet, snowy and sometimes icy conditions. With a few simple steps, your car will be raring to go for winter, even if you aren’t.

Test Your Battery
A car’s battery is almost as important as the engine itself. Without it, your car wouldn’t start or your lights and accessories wouldn’t work, so it’s something you want to maintain, especially during the winter season. Have your battery tested, either by a qualified mechanic, or purchase a tester yourself from a local parts store such as Princess Auto or Canadian Tire.

Winter Tires
Driving around on city streets during a snowstorm with your summer tires can be an exercise in patience. Especially if you get stuck and need to hang out while a tow truck makes it’s way to you. Kaltire says winter tires can provide as much as 50 per cent better traction when driving in snowy or icy conditions.

Plug It In
For those who don’t have a garage, plugging in your car helps keep your engine warm so your vehicle starts better in the winter months. AMA recommends ensuring your power cord doesn’t have any tears or cracks, that you test your plug to ensure your block heater is working and to be sure to plug in for temperatures 15 below and colder. Everylastpenny.com recommends a greener approach to keeping your car plugged in by suggesting you purchase an electronic timer and have your car plugged in for only two hours before you need it. This saves more than $12 of electricity a month.

Change Your Oil
PartSource suggests using thinner oil in your car for the winter months. “Thinner oil is easier for your oil pump to pump through the engine on cold winter mornings,” they say. Another option is switching to synthetic oil as it offers better flowing properties in the cold. PartSource suggests changing your oil at least before the first snowfall saving you from potentially doing so in the snow.

Check Your Wiper Blades
When making the switch to a winter solution washer fluid, you can also take the time to check out the condition of your wiper blades. “Are they worn out, chattering or separating?” asks Part Source. “If so, consider getting a new set of winter wiper blades or premium all season blades.”

Have an Emergency Kit Prepared
Emergency kits for cars are available at most box stores and auto-part retailers. Keep one in your car in case of emergency especially when travelling longer distances. Emergency kits include items such as candles, matches, an extra blanket, nonperishable, high-energy foods, roadside flares, a first aid kit, jumper cables and a water bottle.

Check Your Tire Pressure
You’ll want to ensure your tires are at the correct air pressure which is important come winter for handling and traction. Tire gauges go for only a few dollars and are conveniently stored in your glove box. Your proper tire pressure is usually in the owner’s manual of your car. Stop by your local gas station to pump the correct amount of air into your tires or stop by your local mechanic.

Check Your Antifreeze
Your cars antifreeze to water ratio should be about a 50/50 mix. You’ll want to check your antifreeze close to the first snow to ensure your car is in order. Antifreeze is part of your cars coolant delivery system and can include additives to help with corrosion and lubrication. Coolant mixture tests can be found at most auto part stores.

Driving a 4WD Vehicle?
For those who have four-wheel drive in their vehicle, it’s not commonplace to use the system in the spring and summer months. Ensure you know how to switch your 4WD on and off and consider having your 4WD system looked at to ensure it’s in working order.

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