Getting Your Car, and Yourself, Ready for Winter Driving 

Days are getting shorter, nights are getting longer, and accidents are becoming more prevalent during the winter months. According to ICBC statistics, there are on average 26,000 crashes during the month of December alone. The longer nights, the more frequent rainy days and the odd snow days are all contributing factors to this statistic.  

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.

Winterize your vehicle with five cold weather prep tips

It’s not exactly snowing outside yet, but now is a great time to get your car ready for the low temps ahead.

Vancouverites may be clinging onto the last vestiges of summer with this latest bout of favourable weather, but chilly and wet conditions are inevitably on the way as we approach fall and winter. To avoid being stuck out in the cold on the side of the road, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for the upcoming frigid conditions beforehand. We asked the experts to share their five top tips on getting your vehicle winter ready now.

Tires

The single most crucial safety factor is the condition of your tires. Winter tires are recommended for the season, identifiable by a symbol on the sidewall that looks like a snowflake inside a mountain. The problem with commonly-run all season tires is that they start to lose traction and flexibility as the temperature dips down to 7 C, which is when winter rubber performs at its best.

Lights

Ensure all exterior lights are functioning. Proper operation of the headlights will signal to pedestrians and other vehicles on the road that you are approaching them, and will also assist you in seeing where you are going. Brake lights alert drivers behind you that you are stopping, and turn signals are self-explanatory but are also responsible for acting as your hazard lights in emergencies.

Fluids

Something overlooked quite often is fluid levels. Antifreeze, engine and transmission oil and power steering and windshield washer fluid should all be inspected. The only protection your car’s engine has against cold and freezing is the antifreeze, therefore it is very important to follow the recommendations laid out in the owner’s manual. Remember to always let the radiator cool down before working on it.

Windshield wipers

Make it a habit to regularly check your windshield wiper blades — we tend to forget about these until we need them. The blades should replaced once in the winter and again in the spring.

Emergency kit

Travel with a roadside safety kit: it should contain items like a flashlight, new batteries, gloves, dry food, bottled water, road flares and emergency markers. Other good items to have on hand are rain boots, a thick, waterproof jacket and a small blanket that will all come in handy during a breakdown.