Common sense still goes a long way
Winter weather is hard on your vehicle and its engine. Prepare for winter in the fall, by getting a complete check-up of your vehicle.
Your motor needs a fully charged battery to start in cold weather. Clean battery posts and check the charging system and belts. Have your battery tested in the fall. Replace weak batteries before they fail.
Replace defective ignition wires, cracked distributor caps and worn spark plugs, since they can make starting difficult or may cause a sudden breakdown.
Make sure that all lights work and that headlights are properly aimed.
Check or service your brakes to ensure even braking. Pulling, change in pedal feel, or unusual squealing or grinding may mean they need repair.
When it comes to the exhaust system, check for leaks that could send deadly carbon monoxide into your vehicle.
Check your radiator hoses and drive belts for cracks and leaks. Make sure the radiator cap, water pump and thermostat work properly. Test the strength and level of the coolant/anti-freeze, and make sure the heater and defroster work well.
Make sure that your wipers are in good condition. Replace blades that streak. Purchase wipers designed for winter use. Fill up on winter washer fluid in the - 40° C temperature range and carry an extra jug in your vehicle.
Blizzards are the worst winter storms. They can last six hours or more and bring falling, blowing and drifting snow, winds of 40 kilometres per hour or more, poor visibility and temperatures below -10° C.
Snow and ice are more slippery at 0° C than at -20°C or below.
Heavy snow can bring 10 centimetres or more in 12 hours, or 15 centimetres or more in 24 hours.
Freezing rain or drizzle can become an ice storm, coating roads, trees, overhead wires, etc. with ice.
Watch for black ice at temperatures between +4° C and -4° C, where the road surface ahead looks black and shiny. It is often found on shaded areas of the road, bridges and overpasses long after the sun has come out.
Prepare for the worst
The safest strategy is to avoid driving in bad weather conditions. If you must drive, check weather and travel conditions before heading out. Give yourself extra time for travel and, if weather is bad, wait for conditions to improve.
Always tell someone where you are going, the route you plan to take and when you expect to arrive. If you don’t arrive on time, and people are worried about your safety, they will know where to search for you.
If driving becomes too risky, turn back or look for a safe place to stop until it is safe to drive. Make sure you have enough fuel.
Try to keep the fuel tank at least half-full.
Be alert, well rested and sober behind the wheel and always wear your seat belt.
When worn correctly, seat belts save lives.
Lap belts should be kept low and snug over the hips, while shoulder belts should always be worn across the chest.
Children aged 12 and under should ride in the back seat, safely seated in a car seat or booster seat made for their size and age.
HANDY: A set of booster cables always makes for a practical and much appreciated gift. Cables ought to be part of your Winter survival kit.