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How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

If you’ve looked out your window lately you’ve figured out what season it is. You wouldn’t think of going outside or letting your kids go outside without dressing for the season. The same should be said for your car. Preparing your car for winter will help reduce delays and breakdowns, will keep you safe, and reduce the likelihood of a claim.

Even before you take your car out of your driveway, consider how it is being stored during winter months. If you have a garage – great – you’ve won half the battle. If you are parked on the street or on an uncovered parking pad, you will need to ensure tip-top maintenance of the car inside and out. Time to call a mechanic.

6 Things you should talk to your mechanic about to prepare your car for winter:

  1. Checking all fluids: Topping up windshield washer fluid and flushing your coolant systems (to avoid overheating during a deep freeze) should be done right off the bat. This check will also help detect any leaks in the system and the need, if any, to install fresh coolant.
  2. Ensure heating systems are operational: Obviously you want to stay warm. Ensure your heating system is working at maximum efficiency – both for you and to keep your windows free from fog or ice.
  3. Check your tires (and/or install winter tires): Ontario car insurance quotes, for example, will be more favourable for drivers who install winter tires. It’s not yet a requirement in the province but is smart from a safety and budgetary standpoint. It is recommended that winter tires be installed when the temperature is below 7 degrees, in order to benefit from better traction, braking and handling.
  4. Working windshield wipers: Slush and snow can make it hard to see. Having good working windshield wipers are a key part of your safety. Make sure the ones you are using work, first and foremost, and are clearing your windshield properly. There’s nothing worse than being on the highway with a cracked or smudgy windshield wiper.
  5. Electrical system: Mainly the battery and charging system, as well as your lights and other essential items such as your brakes, should be checked. The right tires and topped-up fluids are useless if you encounter a dead battery or faulty brakes.
  6. Oil: Even if you’ve had it changed recently, it may be something to ask your mechanic about. A low-viscosity oil can flow more rapidly through the system and provide better protection to your engine in colder weather.

How to prepare your car for winter for emergencies

All the preparation in the world may not be enough if you get stuck in a blizzard or driving conditions that force you to stay put in an inconvenient location. The first thing to consider is to be wary of weather and try to plan ahead as much as possible.

Things you need in a winter emergency preparedness kit:

  • First-Aid kit in case you have a small accident
  • A small tool kit and a jack to change tires
  • Jumper cables or self-charging mini-generators that can jump your car and charge a cell phone, if needed
  • A small shovel to dig yourself out of a ditch
  • Road salt or sand to get out of spinning tires
  • A small sleeping bag to keep warm
  • Flashlight if you get stuck at night
  • Windshield fluid to top up if you run out on the road
  • Extra windshield wipers if yours fail to perform on the road
  • Non-perishable food protein bars or jerky, for example, in case you’re stuck for a while
  • Water in case you’re stuck for a while
  • Road flares to notify other drivers or the police you are having trouble
  • De-icer in case doors, locks and latches get frozen

Should you buy roadside assistance when preparing your car for winter?

Something else to consider is roadside assistance. Some people will have received that service as part of their car purchase or through their credit card companies. It is never a bad idea to have peace of mind that can provide help in emergency situations. Also, some roadside assistance organizations offer car insurance quotes that are cheaper as a result of membership. Some car insurance companies offer their own roadside assistance – make sure you’re not paying double for the same service.

Bonus tip: car mats

Most people don’t think about car mats, but they can be an issue in the winter. Some drivers like to layer the thicker heavy-duty mats that catch water on top of the carpeted ones they use in the drier months. Don’t. Layering mats on top of each other can cause the gas or brake pedals to get stuck or for the driver’s feet to be improperly positioned for optimal driving. Follow your car manual on such issues and give yourself as much room and space to drive as safely as possible.

The bottom line on how to prepare your car for winter

Some insurance companies will have better rates for drivers who take more precautions and install winter tires or other safety features, for example. It’s best to compare car insurance providers and see if your efforts are being rewarded, not only for safety but for your wallet, as well.


10 Tips for Safe Winter Driving