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GETTING YOUR VEHICLE READY FOR WINTER

When the weather starts to turn cold and Old Man Winter starts to rear his ugly head, winterizing your vehicle is an important step in vehicle ownership (especially in Saskatchewan!) When the cold temperatures arrive, snow and ice are not far behind, meaning dangerous driving conditions are present also.

Now that it is beginning to near the wrong side of the 0 on the thermometer, it is a good time to review the condition of your vehicle and get it ready for the long winter ahead. This is something that should be done sooner than later, because once the snow flies it is going to be hard to build up the energy and courage to go and do it in the freezing temperatures. Another reason why we recommend winterizing your vehicle early is to prevent unnecessary damage caused by the cold where plastic breaks very easily, especially if you are trying to get a good cleaning in.

Below are the steps we recommend reviewing before the snow flies:

Detail the Interior

Cold and cleaning do not mix. Whether it’s a tough stain you’ve been waiting to tackle caused by the kids, or just trying to get rid of the dust that accumulates, we find it’s much preferrable to take care of these before the freezing temperatures hit. Stains will be harder to move, and fingers are not as flexible when you’re trying to get to those hard to reach places. Remember to clean out your trunk and add in any winter safety items you might need (below).

Stock up

Here are some recommended items to keep in your vehicle in case you find yourself stuck for an extended period:

  • Food that won’t go bad, like energy bars, which will keep you going in case you’re stuck for an extended period.
  • Plastic Water Bottles that won’t break.
  • Blanket(s)
  • Gloves
  • Extra clothing
  • First Aid Kit
  • Small shovel, scraper, and snowbrush
  • Candle in a deep can and matches
  • Wind-up flashlight
  • Whistle (to attract attention)
  • Sand, salt, or cat litter (to assist in getting you out if you find yourself stuck)
  • Antifreeze and Washer fluid
  • Tow Rope
  • Jumper Cables
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Warning lights or road flares

Give Your Car a Check-up

If you have an existing problem you have been holding off having checked out, you should have it assessed sooner than later. Cold weather not only creates problems that do not exist during the winter months, but it can also make existing problems worse and more expensive to repair. If you don’t think you have any mechanical issues that need to be taken care of, it’s still a good idea to go over a couple of other areas to make sure you’re not left in an unfortunate situation.
Your car battery works harder in the winter due to the increased accessories used (defrost, heat, wipers, heated seats etc.) and this causes additional strain on the battery on top of the colder weather hurting its performance. You’ll also want to make sure your heat is blowing hot, your tires are inflated correctly, your rear window defrost is working, and if you have 4x4 you’ll want to make sure it’s operational before the time comes when you need it.

Check your lights

We all know the long winter brings shorter days, meaning the lights in your vehicle need to work more than ever. Take a minute to do a walk-around of your vehicle to ensure your headlights, taillights, reverse lights, signal lights and hazard lights are all in working order. If you get stuck on the side of the road or hit the ditch, you need passers-by to be able to see you!

Can you see?

If you have a small chip or crack you’ve been waiting to get fixed, don’t! As with almost everything else, cold makes things easier to damage, and your windshield follows this rule. A tiny chip or crack in the summer can result it a very severely cracked windshield in the winter that will need to be replaced. The first time you go to scrape your windshield and apply pressure on an already damaged windshield, it is very likely it will crack much worse and you will need to replace the entire windshield at a much higher cost than had you had that crack filled earlier. Don’t procrastinate! And while you are inspecting your windshield, we’d recommend taking a peek at the condition of your windshield wipers as well and replacing them if necessary. Lastly, remember to switch your windshield washer fluid with one that will suit the upcoming weather and is labelled for -30 or -40 degrees Celsius.

Consider Snow Tires

Many people today believe living in Saskatchewan means a 4x4 or All-Wheel Drive vehicle is a necessity. Although they are great vehicles that offer this convenience, they are not everyone’s ideal vehicle. There is a cheaper alternative that will still make you a lot safer on the winter roads, and those are snow tires. These are tires that are made with different tread patterns and different rubber to ensure you have a better grip while driving and come to a stop when you want to stop. They also come with the option of being studded if you need a little extra control with the added incentive of more peace of mind as well. You might think “I already have good tires, why would I need another set?” but once you’ve experienced winter driving on winter tires, you’ll understand and experience a whole new level of peace of mind and will trust your vehicle much more.

Using the steps above as a guideline will make you more confident about travelling this winter in your vehicle. Not only that, but it will make you and your loved ones safer as well, whether that’s because you equipped snow tires and were able to stop those few feet shorter, or because you hit the ditch but had adequate supplies to wait for the tow truck, or even that you saved a few bucks because you didn’t wait to get that windshield fixed, we are sure you’ll be happy you took the time to prepare in advance.