TOP THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PRE­PARE YOUR CAR FOR WIN­TER

From in­stalling your win­ter tires to swap­ping out your floor mats, the time to get ready for win­ter is now

Toronto Sun - - DRIVING.CA - DEREK MCNAUGHTON DRIV­ING.CA

It’s com­ing. Try as we might to re­sist, win­ter is fast ap­proach­ing. Prepa­ra­tion is the only way to sur­vive the sea­son of dis­con­tent, es­pe­cially when it comes to your car. Here are some tips to help you get ready for the worst of what mother na­ture will dish out in the com­ing months.

Tires

Stand in your kitchen and ar­range four slices of bread on the floor in ap­prox­i­mately the same way as your car tires touch the ground. Stand back, fold arms, and ob­serve. Those four patches are about the same as the con­tact points be­tween a cold road and your 3,500 pounds of rolling iron, glass and plas­tic. Wouldn’t you want those points to be the best they can be? Only win­ter tires can do that. All-sea­sons are, in truth, three-sea­son tires. True win­ter tires — those with the snowflake sym­bol on the side wall and on ded­i­cated win­ter rims — are the only way to give your ve­hi­cle the trac­tion it truly needs and pro­tect your reg­u­lar rims.

Bat­tery

How old is your bat­tery? Three years? Seven years? If it’s older than four, start watch­ing the fly­ers for bat­tery deals, be­cause the aver­age life for a car bat­tery is about 48 months. Sure, some bat­ter­ies work well be­yond that, but the clock is tick­ing af­ter the four-year an­niver­sary. If in doubt, have it checked by a shop, or di it your­self with an in­ex­pen­sive tester avail­able from parts re­tail­ers. But don’t push your luck with an ag­ing bat­tery that will most likely fail on the cold­est day of the year, just when you need your ve­hi­cle most.

Fluids

In sum­mer, when you ran low on washer fluid and topped up the tank with wa­ter from the gar­den hose, the world was green and the birds were singing. In De­cem­ber that wa­ter will turn to hard ice, block­ing or dam­ag­ing the washer fluid pump and pre­vent­ing you from clear­ing the front glass of road salt and sand. Take a few min­utes now to fill the reser­voir with gen­uine washer fluid rated for -30 or -40 C. And make sure the fresh fluid streams through the noz­zle jets, ac­cu­rately hit­ting the wind­shield. An oil change and coolant check is also a good idea, if ei­ther of those vi­tals haven’t been changed or checked since spring.

Wipers

The hot sum­mer sun and rainy fall prob­a­bly took its toll on your wiper blades, wear­ing out the rub­ber. Re­plac­ing just the rub­ber parts in­stead of the whole wiper arm is easy and in­ex­pen­sive. Usu­ally, it’s not much more than $20 and it’s a task many peo­ple can do them­selves. Rub­ber re­fills can be or­dered from parts coun­ters at most deal­er­ships or parts sup­pli­ers. Lots of shops will in­stall these at lit­tle to no ex­tra cost, set­ting you up for clear vi­sion in the dark­est days ahead. If your car has one, don’t for­get the rear wiper, too.

Lights

Are your head­lights cloudy? Do you have a burnt-out bulb? Do you for­get to turn on your head­lamps? With day­light be­com­ing as scarce as cheap flights to Can­cun, get­ting as many lu­mens on the road as pos­si­ble is not just so you can see bet­ter, but also so oth­ers can see you. En­sure all bulbs work, re­place faded head­lights with new ones or try to pol­ish them up, and leave your lights in the ON po­si­tion when you drive. In most newer cars, head­lights au­to­mat­i­cally shut off with the ig­ni­tion af­ter a pre­set time, so leave them on to see and be seen. Don’t driv­ing in a storm with only the day­time run­ning lights on.

In­te­rior mats

Even two snowflakes seem to trig­ger mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties into launch­ing full scale, army­like at­tacks of salt trucks onto our roads, so get ready for the war with rub­ber floor mats. Dig­i­tal-fit mats specif­i­cally made for just about any ve­hi­cle from af­ter­mar­ket com­pa­nies, or even all-weather OEM mats, are ex­cel­lent at keep­ing salt and dirt off your ve­hi­cle’s car­pets, where it will stain, cause rust and be­come hard to re­move in spring. Add a mov­ing blan­ket to the cargo area and/or back seat of your SUV or truck, too, to keep salted gear from spoil­ing these heav­ily used ar­eas.

Oil spray

All that salt will at­tack your ve­hi­cle’s frame, sus­pen­sion and body, so if you plan to keep the ve­hi­cle a long time, have it oil sprayed by a rep­utable ap­pli­ca­tor. Oil spray­ing doesn’t guar­an­tee pro­tec­tion against rust, but it def­i­nitely slows its ad­vance. The cost for this varies, de­pend­ing on ve­hi­cle and thor­ough­ness of the spray job, but keep in mind the ve­hi­cle will drip for days or even weeks af­ter­ward, po­ten­tially stain­ing drive­ways or garage floors. It’s a good idea to park on a tarp if you’ve had the ser­vice done.

Lots of lube

Rub­ber seals around doors and win­dows harden over time, so lube them with a can of sil­i­cone spray. The stuff costs as lit­tle as $3, but it goes a long way to keep­ing doors — es­pe­cially slid­ing van doors — from be­ing stub­born to open in the bit­ing cold, when rub­ber seals stick if there’s any mois­ture about. Spray a lit­tle sil­i­cone into the door locks and gas-cap door while you’re at it, and give the door latches and door hinges a shot of white lithium grease as well.

Be pre­pared

Stock your ve­hi­cle with a good LED flash­light, jumper ca­bles, blan­ket, gloves, toque, tow rope, a power bar for your phone and pro­tein bars for your­self. Know where the re­cov­ery points of your ve­hi­cle are lo­cated. Check the weather be­fore any trip, and en­sure your road­side as­sis­tance num­ber is handy. And re­mem­ber that ev­ery win­ter drive comes with higher risk, es­pe­cially af­ter a big dump of fresh snow. Some­times it might make more sense to leave the car or truck at home.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Prepa­ra­tion is the only way to sur­vive the sea­son of dis­con­tent, es­pe­cially when it comes to your car.

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