6 Tips to Prepare Your Car for Spring

We’ve seen everything this winter in the Greater Vancouver region, from record breaking snow and rain, to unseasonably warm days. But fear not, spring really is just around the corner, and we have tips to prepare your car for spring.

Canadian winters are the harshest season for cars. Our vehicles really have to go through a lot with brine solution, salt and sand on the roads, along with ice, potholes, and temperature variances.

You can wipe away the grime and set your car up to look like new again this spring.

Tips to prepare your car for spring

1. Swap out your winter wheels/tires.

There are unquestionable benefits of winter tires over all-seasons at temperatures under 7 degrees Celsius. Their stickier softer rubber compound allows significantly more grip at lower temperatures, helping to keep us on the roads and out of the ditches.

However, your winter tires on too long at higher ambient temperatures will result in excessive wear, worse handling, and increased fuel consumption (due to higher rolling resistance). Don’t forget to check and adjust the tire pressures on your all-season or summer tires when it’s time to swap them over.

Remember to give the spare tire a quick once over as it is usually the most neglected tire and also arguably the most important one.

When the winter tires are off the car, inspect them for damage so that you’re not caught off guard next winter.

2. Vacuum your car and clear out the trash.

Sand and salt have almost definitely made it into your car due how much the road crews dump onto our roads every winter. Now’s a great time to start vacuuming the dirt and those little pebbles out of the crevices. While you’re at it, clear out any of the junk that you’ve been dumping on the floor or back seat.

If you have leather seats, now would be a good time to do a quick clean and condition as well due to the dry winter months wearing out the leather prematurely. Your car dealer’s parts department will likely have the appropriate manufacturer-approved products, or at least can make the proper recommendation as to what you need to buy.

3. Clean the windows.

Notice your windows fogging up really easily? This is partly due to the film of dirt that has clung onto the glass. Moisture loves to bind to something and that in turn becomes fog on the inside of your windows.

Use a high quality non-ammonia based car window cleaner and some newspaper or lint-free cloth. The ammonia in household cleaners will cause the windows to fog up even worse so stay away from it. If you have aftermarket tinted windows, ammonia-based household cleaners can also damage the tint film.

Be sure to use a soft microfiber cloth and not newspaper if you have aftermarket tinted windows because the paper fibres can scratch the tint film.

4. Change your wiper blades

Salt spray, dirt, ice all result in torn-up wiper blades at the end of the winter months. You don’t want to be caught blinded by ineffective windshield wipers if there is a sudden downpour.

If your blades are relatively new but already streaking, try adding a small amount of nail polish remover (acetone) on a paper towel and then wiping both swipe sides of the wiper blade with it.

This will slightly dissolve the top layer of rubber and may prolong the blade for another few months. However, be sure not to get any of the remover on your paint!

5. Replace your cabin air filter (if your car has one).

The cabin air filter is the last line of defense between the air you breathe in the car, and the pollen, dirt, plant material in the air outside your car. Change your filter at the end of every winter season and you won’t have to worry about it for the rest of the year. Contact your dealer’s part department as the Original Equipment part is frequently of better quality and not necessarily more expensive.

Be sure to check for any fallen and decomposing leaves in the cabin air intake system too as they may be obstructing airflow.


6. Wash and wax your car.

Wipe down the inside of the door sills and the rocker panels to keep your pant legs clean. Use a high quality car wash detergent to wash your car. Never use dishwashing detergent as that strips wax from and dulls the paint.

Invest in a high quality microfiber or real sheepskin mitt, or a boar’s hair brush. All 3 will trap the surface dirt deeper in the fibres/hairs and prevent them from scratching the paint. Stay away from sponges for the opposite reason. Remember to rinse the mitt or brush frequently with clean water.

Wear a disposable surgical or waterproof garden glove inside the mitt if the water temperature is still cold. This will help to keep your hand from freezing too quickly.

Be sure to hose off all the accumulated salt and dirt from the inside of the wheel wells and on the undercarriage of the car to prevent rust. Going through an automated touchless car wash that has a high pressure underbody spray may be a good idea.

Since it may still be a bit too cold to do a complete wax/polish job on your car, try using some spray wax quick detailer with a microfiber cloth after washing  and drying the car.

This will add some temporary protection till warmer temperatures arrive to do a full clay bar/polish job for the summer.

Five tips for driving safer in rain

Driving in the rain doesn’t have to be dangerous if you take a few precautionary steps.

Tune into any local radio traffic station after the first big rain of the season, and there will inevitably be reports of accidents all across the city. Avoid being a statistic by learning how to drive defensively in the wet.

Mind your speed

A big reason for losing control in rainy conditions is simply driving too fast. The amount of available grip drops dramatically when the roads become slick from a mixture of water and vehicle fluid runoff. Slowing down prevents water building up in the small channels of the tire tread, and provides more room between you and the car in front if you need to brake suddenly or make a last-minute steering manoeuvre.

Check your blades

You can’t drive safely if you can’t see. Before the rain falls, double check to see if your wipers can clear the windshield properly without squeaking or rubbing, and make sure the blades aren’t cracked or disintegrating. Replacements are inexpensive and most dealerships will help install them after purchase.

Light up

All too often I’ll be driving in the rain on a dark road, and notice the car in front of me just has his running lights on, or worse, no lights at all. Make it a habit to turn the headlights to the on position in inclement weather for a two-fold benefit: you will be able to see what’s in front of you better, and you’ll be more visible to other motorists.

Avoid puddles

While splashing through a miniature lake on the road sounds like a fun idea, you don’t know what’s beneath so go around if possible. Generally, avoid puddles unless they’re shallow enough that you can still see the asphalt at the bottom. If you must go through, drive slowly so water doesn’t potentially splash up into the engine bay and onto delicate and/or expensive parts.

Don’t cruise

Try and avoid using cruise control during stormy conditions — you want to be alert and ready to hit the brakes or gas pedal if something goes awry. If your tires hit a big puddle and begin to hydroplane (skim uncontrollable over the surface of the wet pavement), cruise control may cause the car to suddenly accelerate once the situation gets grippy again.

Road Trip: 5 Things to do Before Heading Out

Summer is in full swing and road trip season is happening! Following the next 5 steps will help you to drive safely and avoid any mechanical issues all summer long.

Wax the car

Many drivers like to take their car out and about during the summer. There is nothing like a great coat of fresh wax to rejuvenate how your vehicle looks. A fresh coat of wax also makes removing dirt and bug guts that much easier.

Since the main idea behind a wax is to protect and preserve the paint, you always want to thoroughly wash your car before you apply a wax. There’s no sense in trapping dirt and water underneath the protective wax, so be sure to do a through job with quality car washing liquid and a microfibre or sheepskin wash mitt. Avoid using a sponge as the pores can trap dirt and drag it along, scratching your paint.

While washing and waxing is very popular in the summer, be sure to avoid doing it in direct sunlight. Why? Because when the temperature is high and you’re in direct sunlight, noticeable water spots can form only to then be sealed in by the wax, making them even more noticeable.

The evening is probably the best time to wash and wax a car. Once the sun starts to go down, begin to wash your car and wax it once the temperature drops a little bit. See “How to wax your car in three easy steps.”

Windshield Sunshade

You may be surprised to find out how high temperatures can soar within the interior of a car during a hot, sunny day.

A sunshade (aka UV Heat Shield) helps to reduce interior temperature and protect the interior from damaging UV rays that penetrate the front windshield.

Many manufacturers offer custom-patterned windshield shades that fit the outline of their vehicles’ windshields. Check with your dealership’s part department to see if one is available for your vehicle.

Check tire pressures

Checking your tires is crucial in the summer. Remember, the contact patch of most tires is only about the size of your hand and it has to handle a lot more weight and force than the shoe that is on your foot.

Long road trips with humongous loads and high temperatures can stress your Michelins to the max. And, obviously, if the tires go, you go!

Make sure that you have the correct tire pressure in all five tires. Why five? Because most cars have a spare tire and even the space saver spare tire needs to have its pressure checked!

Inflate your tire to the level recommended by what your vehicle manufacturer recommends, which should be listed on the side of the driver’s door, on the fuel filler cap door, or in the owner’s manual. Don’t confuse the “maximum tire pressure” listed on the sidewall of the tire with the “recommended tire pressure” provided by the manufacturer of the vehicle.

While it’s okay to inflate your tires to the “maximum tire pressure” number, “Recommended tire pressure” is the ideal pressure you want in your tires. If you’re carrying an extra heavy load, follow the recommendation for “heavy loads,” which is usually listed in the manual.

Pack Smart

Check your vehicle’s load capacity to make sure you aren’t putting too much weight in the car. On most new cars, the total weight you can carry is printed on the door placard inside the driver’s door jam. This load rating includes all the passengers and cargo.

With extra weight comes extra fuel consumption, so try to carry only what you need and some emergency supplies. If you’re not using the roof rack, remove it (if possible) as it can significantly worsen your fuel economy.

If you have to carry a roof top cargo box, fill it only with light bulky items as adding items on the roof increases the vehicle’s centre of gravity and heavy loads on the roof can make the vehicle more difficult to handle in emergency situations.

Schedule a check-up

Schedule a check-up before you head out on the road. Performing basic maintenance on your vehicle before you head out such as checking wipers and fluid levels can help you to avoid issues while away from home.

If it is almost time to get the oil changed, do it before you leave. A long trip can put additional stress on your motor. Also don’t think that adding extra oil by yourself will work like an oil change, because that does not get rid of the sludge from old used oil. You may not realize this due to the fact that your continuously adding new cleaner oil which makes it appear as if it’s clean oil.

Now that you’ve followed all 5 of these steps, just roll down the windows, turn on the radio and enjoy the open road!

Three tips for winter driving preparedness

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is only just about a month away. Fall officially ends on Dec. 20, with the winter solace being December 21.

Sadly, an average of 34 people are killed and 7,110 injured in 4,740 crashes every December on B.C. roads, making it one of the highest months of the year for crashes.

Here are three important things to be mindful of before you take to the roads this holiday season.

1. Get ahead of winter driving starting with tire safety

According to BCAA’s 2013 Winter Driving Survey, only half of the B.C. drivers polled planned to use winter tires. Of those who did not plan to use winter tires, 51 per cent felt that all-season tires were safe enough to get them through winter.

There is a big misconception that winter tires are only meant for snow. In fact, when the temperature drops below 7 C, all-season tires start losing their grip levels dramatically with the rubber becoming rigid and brittle.

Winter tires are designed to be the safest tire choice when it comes to all other winter conditions, including freezing rain, rain, slush, ice, and of course, snow.

For your safety and the safety of other drivers, ICBC recommends using winter tires if you live in an area where you would normally expect a lot of snow or if you’ll be travelling somewhere with these conditions.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure can designate snow tires to be required on certain roads and highways and if you are driving without them, police can ticket you and make you turn back.

2. Manage your journey and be prepared for an emergency

  • If you are travelling out of town, before you begin your trip, check the TV, radio and/or websites like drivebc.ca to ensure weather and road conditions on your planned route are not too severe.
  • Give yourself extra travel time to get to your destination. As much as possible, plan to use main roads that are generally well-maintained and cleared first when snow hits.
  • Let someone know your where you are headed, your planned route and expected time of arrival.
  • Consider buying a vehicle phone charger in case you find yourself in an emergency situation and without battery power. At least you can still call for help.
  • Ensure you have a full tank of fuel when you set off, so you can run the engine for heat in the event you get stranded.

3. Do a complete vehicle check before the snow hits

  • Check and change your wiper blades if necessary. Old wiper blades can dry out and crack in the summer, dramatically impeding visibility when they have to work overtime to wipe off rain, hail, sleet and snow.
  • Check your engine oil levels and change if necessary. Consult your service advisor or owner’s manual for the appropriate winter oil weights if applicable.
  • As the temperature drops, so does the power output of your battery. Consider taking your car to your dealership to get the battery tested and replaced if necessary. As a general rule, most car batteries have an average lifespan of four years under normal conditions.
  • Buy a tire pressure gauge and check your tire pressure as tires every couple of weeks. Tires can deflate quickly in the cold temperatures and overinflated tires can reduce gripping.
  • Ensure your engine’s cooling system has the appropriate antifreeze for the colder temperatures.
  • Top up your windshield washer reservoir regularly with winter-grade washer fluid that won’t freeze when the mercury dips below the freezing mark.
  • Ensure all lights are clean and in working order.
  • Keep your gas tank full to prevent freezing in extreme temperatures and pack an emergency kit with non-perishable food items and some water in case you get stranded. A warm blanket and a small collapsible shovel are also essentials.
  • If you don’t have keyless entry, spray lock lubricant into your key holes regularly to prevent the door locks from freezing.