Prevention is better than recovery
Winter driving can be risky, so be prepared.
Winter weather is hard on your vehicle and its engine. Prepare for winter in the fall, by getting a complete check-up of your:
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 and spring. 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.
Check pressures often, especially before any highway driving. Properly inflated, high quality winter tires will give you best traction on winter roads and increase fuel efficiency.
A tire that has good pressure when checked in a warm garage will be under-inflated when it is below zero outside - because tire pressure goes down in the cold. That is why you should do your checks when the tires are cold. Use the maximum pressure amount shown in the owner's manual or on the doorframe as a guide, but never go above the pressure shown on the tire sidewall. Check your spare tire pressure regularly.
Since having four matching tires improves vehicle handling, don't mix tires with different tread patterns, internal construction and size.
Winter tires have been designed for use in snow. They carry a pictograph on the side-wall of a peaked mountain with a snowflake, meet high standards for winter traction performance and should not be confused with Mud + Snow (M+S) rated snow tires. Winter tires are a good idea, and may even be legally required where you live. To learn more about winter tires, visit: Transport Canada's Winter Tire Safety Tips and Be Tire Smart! Play your PART.
Check for leaks that could send deadly carbon monoxide into your vehicle.
Heating and cooling system
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.
It's a good idea to visit www.weatheroffice.gc.ca for local weather reports, before you leave home. Environment Canada issues warnings when it expects blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain or drizzle, cold snaps and winds.
Blizzards are the worst winter storms. They can last six hours or more and bring: falling, blowing and drifting snow; winds of 40 kilometers 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 centimeters or more in 12 hours, or 15 centimeters or more in 24 hours.
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.
COLD SNAPS are rapid drops in temperature.
WINDS cause blizzard conditions, drifting, poor visibility and wind-chill effects.
In bad weather, put more distance
between you and the vehicle in front of you.
The danger of skidding is greatest when you are taken by surprise. Since not all vehicles respond in the same way to icy, slippery roads, learn how to handle your vehicle in all types of weather. Read the owner's manual to learn about your vehicle's braking system and tire traction. You may also consider taking a winter driving course.
In extreme weather avoid using cruise control.
Having the latest safety features on new vehicles and/or knowing how to handle your vehicle are good ways to keep control.
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) helps drivers avoid crashes. ESC sensors compare the direction of the steering wheel to the direction the vehicle is going. When they are not the same, and the vehicle begins to skid, ESC applies the brakes to one or more wheels, or reduces engine power, or both, to help keep the vehicle under control.
ESC is 'On' when you start your engine. If your vehicle has an ESC 'Off' switch, turn off ESC when you are stuck in deep snow. A dashboard light will remind you to turn it back on.
The only way to get ESC is to buy a new or used vehicle that is already equipped with it. If you are thinking about buying a new vehicle, ask your dealer to show you models with ESC. To learn more, visit www.tc.gc.ca/ESC.
The best way to avoid a skid is by driving at speeds
that are safe for the weather and road conditions.
A good way to avoid skidding is to drive appropriately for road and weather conditions: SLOW DOWN. Allow extra travel time and be very careful when you brake, change lanes, make turns and take curves.
Even careful and experienced drivers can skid, so be prepared. Skidding may be the result of panic braking when you are trying to avoid an obstacle on the road. What should you do?
Electronic Stability Control helps to avoid skidding.
When driving on a snow-covered road there may be more snow/slush between lanes than in the lane, making changing lanes more difficult.
A skid occurs when the rear wheels lock or lose traction. To regain steering control:
Front-wheel skids are caused by hard braking, acceleration or by driving too fast for the road conditions. You can't steer when the front wheels lose traction. To regain steering control:
Sometimes all four wheels lose traction - generally at high speeds or under poor road conditions. To regain steering control:
Proper braking is important to safe winter driving. Since it takes longer to stop on a slippery road, you should:
If you don't have anti-lock brakes (ABS), the best way to stop on a slippery road is to brake but not so hard that your tires stop turning. If you brake too hard and cause the wheels to lock (stop turning), release the pedal just enough to get the wheels rolling. Then, brake again right away, with slightly less force than before.
ABS is a system that allows you to steer while braking hard.
ABS prevents wheels from locking and allows you to control steering during hard braking. When wheel sensors detect lock-up, the system relieves enough pressure to keep the tires rolling, while you brake hard. You will feel the brake pedal rapidly pulse back against your foot and may hear some mechanical noise. DO NOT lift your foot from the brake or pump the pedal. In an emergency stop, press the brake quickly and hard. The ABS system will NOT shorten stopping distance. For more information on ABS check out the Transport Canada site.
Practice techniques before you need to use them.
Don't do any heavy lifting, shoveling or pushing in the bitter cold - it can kill. Do make sure the tailpipe is not blocked by snow, to keep carbon monoxide from getting into your vehicle. Then, if your vehicle is not at risk of being hit by other drivers, stay inside so you have shelter. Going out into a storm puts you at risk of getting lost, or suffering from the cold.
You should also:
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