When it comes to winter in Canada, you’ll probably see it all—freezing rain, sunshine, black ice and blizzards—even in the same day. To help you handle whatever weather comes your way, we’ve prepared a list of the top winter driving tips.
Winter Driving Tips 1-5
1. Prepare for Winter Driving in the Fall
Old man winter always seems to arrive so suddenly and completely. Instead of waking up to three feet of snow and a car that won’t make it out of the driveway, get your vehicle ready for winter in the Fall.
Some of the things you’ll want to do include installing winter wiper blades, getting a winter oil service, and checking your battery, your brakes and your lights. It’s also a good idea to make sure your ignition, heating and cooling and exhaust system are in good shape. You’ll also want to pack a winter survival kit for your trunk. And then it’s time for tires, which takes us to tip #2.
2. Install All Four Matching Winter Tires Early
They’re called winter tires rather than snow tires for a reason: it’s about temperature, not snow. Summer and all-season tires get cold and hard at just 7 C. Winter tires and all-weather tires have a different rubber compound that allows them to stay soft and flexible at colder temperatures for optimum grip.
They also bear the severe service mountain snowflake winter tire symbol so you know they’re safe for Canada’s winter driving conditions. To ensure safe handling, make sure you’re using all four of the same tires.
So, when should you install your winter tires? Instead of looking at the calendar, look at the forecast. When it’s 7 C at best, it’s time to put on your winter tires or all-weather tires.
3. Check Your Tire Pressure Regularly
Quality winter tires inflated at their recommended (not maximum) air pressure are your best defense against slippery ice, snow and slush. Check your tire pressure every few weeks and every time you’re about to head out on a winter road trip. Be sure to check your tires when they’re cold since pressure will go down at cooler temperatures.
4. Hit the Parking Lot to Practice Winter Driving
If you can, find a great big safe, empty parking lot during daylight so you can learn and practice how to drive on snow or ice. Rehearse some of these maneuvers slowly:
- Steering. If you were skidding, would you know how to try and regain control of your vehicle if your car is turning more than you want it to (oversteering), or not turning as much as you’d like (understeering)? The best way to learn is by doing. Try gently adjusting your speed and your handling as you corner so you know what your vehicle needs to regain traction.
- Braking. Know how to use your brakes best—apply steady pressure for anti-lock brakes; pump for non anti-lock brakes.
- Stopping. On water-covered ice even at -1, it can take several more metres to stop.
A little driving practice will give you the know-how and confidence to handle skidding and stopping situations in cold weather conditions.
5. Check Road and Weather Conditions Before Heading Out
If you have a long drive ahead, make sure it’s safe for you to be on the road. It might be sunny and balmy where you are, but in a few hours or even just a few dozen kilometres away, you could be facing a blizzard, heavy snowfall, freezing rain or a cold snap. You wouldn’t want to be on the road during one of Eastern Canada’s notorious ice storms.
Surprisingly, some of the most dangerous driving conditions occur at fair temperatures. Snow and ice, for example, are more slippery at 0 C than -20 C. Environment Canada’s online weather reports are a good source of information about conditions, and there you’ll also find warnings about severe conditions.
What else can you do to stay safe on the road this winter? Read our Winter Driving Tips Part 2 to learn about how to handle the roads and your vehicle once you’re past the driveway.
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