Winter Driving Tips | Winterize your Vehicle

Winter Driving Tips
By Benny Leung, Toronto Star
The winter season can be tough on vehicles and challenging for motorists. We need to take extra caution and use common sense to ensure our cars are safe and perform well in extreme weather conditions.
Most readers will be familiar with the term “winterize a vehicle.” For many, that means installing snow tires and checking fluid levels.
In fact, there are other factors that should be addressed when winterizing a vehicle to ensure maximum safety and performance during the cold months. Here’s a checklist of 10 items that should not be overlooked:
1. Install snow tires. They have deeper grooves and provide better traction than all-season tires on snow and ice, and they allow for faster stops. Always install four tires, not two. And check tire pressure frequently because it decreases during cold weather.
2. Top up all fluids. Check the oil, transmission, brake, and windshield washer fluids. Some vehicles perform better in winter using a thinner oil, such as 5W30, so check your owner’s manual.
3. Inspect wiper blades. Good-quality wiper blades are a must in winter, as they will be required to clear away snow, ice, dirt, salt and sludge.
4. Check your battery. Clean any corrosion or debris from the connections. If the battery is more than three years old, have a qualified auto technician check to see if it will hold a charge, and check the charging system.
5. Get a tuneup. This will enhance the overall operation of your vehicle, lessen the chances of having your car break down and provide added peace of mind.
6. Check your antifreeze. Ensure that your cooling system antifreeze mixture is effective to at least -40C.
7. Check emergency numbers. Make a list of important numbers, such as your insurance company, relatives and your dealership, so they can be quickly retrieved in the event of an emergency.
8. Carry a cellphone, especially if you plan on travelling to remote areas.
9. Pack an emergency kit. It should include a flashlight, flare, ice scraper/snow brush, first-aid kit, blanket, warm clothing, lighter, windshield-washer fluid, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. It’s a good idea to keep a bag of sand or salt in the trunk to ensure better traction in winter.
10. Check your lights. Make sure all exterior lights are working properly. This includes headlights, turn signals, parking lights, back-up lights, hazard lights, and brake lights.
As an added safety tip, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation has published a Winter Driving Brochure that contains helpful information about driving safely in winter and winter road maintenance practices. The brochure can be viewed online at
Winter driving also means using some common sense. For instance, if you plan on taking a long road trip, check the road and weather conditions before heading out.
After a heavy snowfall, remove as much snow as possible from your vehicle before driving off. This will ensure maximum visibility at all times and serve as a courtesy to fellow motorists.
For those who want to improve their winter driving skills, consider enrolling in an advanced driver training course.
For all drivers, please take the time to prepare your vehicles properly this winter so that you can arrive at your destinations safely.
This column represents the views of TADA. Email or visit Benny Leung, president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, is a new-car dealer in the GTA.