How To Get Your Car Winter-Ready

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Winter Car MaintenanceWith Halloween in the rearview mirror and the holiday season approaching, temperatures almost invariably start declining precipitously. And while there are occasional periods of time in which temperatures become mild enough to go coatless, that likely won't be the case in the Prairie provinces in 2013-14.

According to recently released long-range weather forecast data from The Old Farmer's Almanac, temperatures are expected to average about minus-12 degrees Celsius in December, with precipitation amounts ranging between 20 and 25 millimeters, which is slightly above normal. From Dec. 1 all the way to New Year's Eve, snow showers are in the forecast, with flurries expected on the week of Christmas. As 2013 comes to a close, though, it could warm up slightly.

Meanwhile, Accuweather has made similar predictions about what Alberta and Prairie residents can expect this winter. In the central Prairies, average snowfalls amounts are anticipated, but in the far east portion of the region, snowfall totals are expected to be under what is typical.

While forecasts such as these don't always turn out quite as predicted, what just about everyone can ensure is that the roads will, at one point or another, be treacherous - particularly for those who haven't gotten their car ready for the inclement weather season.

To help in this regard, automotive guru Jess Davidson recently offered some suggestions for the most important things to tackle in the car maintenance realm before the white stuff starts flying in abundance:

  • Give the engine a thorough analysis. In order for a car to be "winter ready," all of its working parts need to be in order. Thus, make sure you look at the hoses and belts, checking to see that there aren't any cracks or leaks. If something appears to be out of order, take it into the shop so that it can be professionally repaired. Additionally, check all of the reservoirs - like the windshield wiper fluid and coolant - ensuring that they're filled to capacity.
  • Examine the headlights. With the end of Daylight Saving Time now passed, there will be more hours of darkness than daylight, as the sun shines less and less all the way until Dec. 21. This means that your headlights will get more of a workout. If new lamps haven't been installed, it may be worthwhile to get new ones put in place, especially if they appear dim.
  • Install winter tires soon. Winter tires are not only important in order cautiously drive over patches of snow and ice, but they're also important when the temperatures dip. When it gets to be 7 degrees Celsius or below, make that all of your tires are replaced with four matching winter tires. Thanks to their added traction, it shouldn't take as long to come to a stop when applying the brakes.

Ensure emergency kit is always on board. In addition to car insurance claims, breakdowns tend to be the most common in the winter. With the appropriate tools, though, help is always available. Ideally, an emergency kit should have jumper cables, a flashlight with working batteries, first-aid kit, warm clothing, blanket, ice scraper and kitty litter to give the wheels extra traction.

Don't let gas tank go below half-full. If possible, don't let the gas gauge go below the midpoint. When temperatures get bitterly cold, the high volume of fuel prevents moisture from forming, thereby keeping the gas lines operable.