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How to Winterize Your Car

When the leaves begin to drop off the trees and the days start to get shorter, it’s a sign that the winter months will soon be here. For much of Canada, this means colder temperatures, snow and ice and the return of bad driving conditions.

The change in seasons is a good time to review the condition of your vehicle and prepare it for winter. It’s easy to procrastinate and put off this task until the first snowfall hits but being ready in advance will give you better security on the road and will also help you avoid long wait times to get those snow tires put on.

Here are the areas you should review in early fall:

Clean the inside

It’s a good idea to give your vehicle a deep clean while the weather’s still relatively nice. You don’t want to be digging out garbage and spare change from in between your seats while you’re surrounded by snow and frigid temperatures. Vacuum the carpets and give your dashboard and accessories a clean sweep. Clean out your trunk so you’ll have room for winter travelling essentials. You might also want to replace your floor mats with weather resistant mats.

Wax on, wax off

Clear off all the summer dust and built-up bugs with a good car wash. Use a wax that will help coat and protect the exterior from road salt and one that will make it easier to brush away snow and ice. Touch up any scratches or chips as these could get worse over the winter months.

Give your car a tune-up

If it’s been awhile since you’ve taken your vehicle into the shop, don’t keep putting it off. The cold weather can make existing problems worse and delaying a repair can potentially cost you more money down the road. Whether you’re savvy enough to do the maintenance check yourself, or you rely on the advice of your mechanic, there are several areas you should pay attention to. The first is your car battery – dropping temperatures and increased accessory use (defrosters, heat, windshield wipers) can put a strain on your battery. You don’t want to spend time digging your car out of a snowy driveway just to find out it won’t start anyways. You’ll also want to test your heat system, your front and rear window defrost and your four-wheel drive as these are areas that don’t get a lot of use during the summer months.

Fill-up the fluids

Have a look at your coolant system to ensure it’s working properly and to spot any cracked hoses or leaks. Investigate your brakes and look to see if it’s time for an oil change. The change in temperature can affect your oil, so check your owner’s manual for specifics on what type of oil works best for your car in each season.

Replace any burnt out lights

Winter brings shorter days which means you’ll be depending more on your lights to help you see in the morning and at night. Check your headlights, taillights, backup lights, signal lights and your hazard lights to confirm that they are all in working order.

A clear view

If you’ve been putting off fixing a small crack or chip in your windshield, now is the time to do it before it gets any worse. You’ll also want to put your windshield wipers to the test – are they leaving streaks behind? Your wipers need to be in top shape to ensure they clear off all the snow and ice. If you want blades that will seriously chop away at the snow, you can also buy winter specific wiper blades. Switch out your all-season washing fluid for a product with de-icer in it, and don’t forget to grab a few extra containers for the trunk as you’ll likely need it in a month or two.

Dig out the winter tools

Keep a set of gloves, a snow brush and an ice scraper in your car at all times. Try to find a brush with soft bristles to prevent any damage to the paint or glass on your car. It’s also good to have a set of jumper cables in your trunk just in case you or a fellow motorist needs a boost on a frigid day.

Equip your car with snow tires

It no doubt happens every year – just like everyone else, you wait until the snow hits to put your snow tires on and you’re faced with long line-ups at your local garage. To avoid the delay, call your service centre in early fall and inquire about the best time to make the switch. Once you’ve got the winter tires on, store your summer tires in opaque plastic bags, keeping them in a place with a consistent, cool temperature. Some service stations will even store your tires for you for a small fee.

Make sure you’re protected, just in case

Review your emergency roadside kit to make sure it’s well stocked and can be of assistance if you get stranded. Replace anything that’s expired and add in extra items to protect you in the winter. This is also a good time to check your spare tire to ensure that it’s inflated and to confirm that you have all the tools you need to replace a flat tire.

Avoid a deep freeze

Prevent frozen locks and doors by adding a little lubricant ahead of time. You can spray a graphite-based lock lubricant into keyholes, using short blasts. You don’t want to do this more than once a year as you could risk jamming the lock if you’ve got too much lubricant in there. You can apply a silicone-based rubber lubricant on weather stripping that’s located on car doors to prevent the seals from sticking together. This also works on the trunk and hood seals.

By preparing your car for the winter months, you can be confident that your vehicle is ready for the icy and slippery driving conditions and cold temperatures that are typically associated with the season.