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Cruise Control: Drive into Winter Weather with Ease

Here’s how to ensure your vehicle is ready for cooler temperatures and icy roads, using your CAA Membership

An illustration of two people wearing winter hats, sitting inside of a blue car driving during a snowfall.

Courtesy of Jason Ford

When the seasons change, it’s time to give your vehicle a little extra attention. Spend some time to ensure it’s in top mechanical shape. You want to catch any issues now, before the deep freeze—and make any repairs or adjustments, so your car will be able to handle the shifts in weather conditions. The most important thing is regular maintenance year-round, according to Ryan Peterson, manager of automotive services for CAA Club Group (CCG). “If you follow your owner’s manual regularly, you need not worry about the seasons. And if you haven’t had the car checked out thoroughly by a mechanic in a year or more, go do it!” 

How you prepare for winter depends on your driving habits and weather conditions. If you hardly stray from an urban environment, you won’t need to plan the same way as someone who drives 1,000 kilometres through wilderness. But either way, don’t allow winter to catch you by surprise.

An illustration of a car up on a pedestal, as a cartoon man wearing orange overalls inspects its underside.

Pre-Winter Prep

“Have your mechanic put your vehicle up on the hoist, pull the wheels off and check the brakes, suspension, belts, hoses, fluids,” says Peterson. “You want to catch problems now because components, as they wear, become more brittle when the temperature drops.” Mechanics designated by CAA’s Approved Auto Repair Services™ (AARS) program will perform a thorough 139-point inspection, as well as a road test, and provide you with a comprehensive report. 

You can also ask your trusted mechanic to do a thorough mechanical inspection and to clearly rank the urgency of repairs. Rustproofing is a good idea to protect against salt damage. Try to get this done before winter sets in, so it has time to settle into the crevices where rust can build up. Krown Rust Control is the only rustproofing treatment recommended by CAA.

An illustration of a man in a blue car driving on snow. He is sticking his head out of the window of the car looking at a spot of oil that has appeared out from under his car.

What To Watch For 

A regular visual once-over is one of the best ways to catch an issue before it becomes a problem—you can actually do this every day before you drive out. This is important year-round and even more so in winter. “Keep your eyes open for little things, like a leak on the driveway when you’re pulling out,” says Peterson. 
“It’s the same thing with tires. When you walk up to the car, be mindful of whether one tire looks low in pressure compared with the other tires. Look for any kind of cracking or cuts that can often happen from sidewall damage due to potholes.” It’s a good idea to change your wipers at least once a year. That way, you won’t have to deal with a sudden malfunction at an inopportune time. Check fluid levels at least every two months, year-round, and have on hand a bottle of windshield cleaner rated for extreme cold.

Did you know that CAA Mobile Tire Change provides an at-home wheel-change service for Members, seven days a week? Visit caasco.com/wintertirechange for details.

An illustration of a car tire with a face, arms and legs. It's wearing a yellow scarf and a grey winter hat, and there is a blue though bubble next to it with an image of a snowy mountain inside of it.

Tire Care

Because tires lose about one pound per square inch (PSI) of pressure for every 5°C drop, make it a habit to measure pressure frequently—including the spare tire. Be careful not to over- or underinflate, which can cause premature wear and negatively impact performance. Winter tires will stop your car up to 40 percent sooner than all-season tires and improve handling. 

Look for the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol on the sidewall, indicating the tire has passed specific medium-packed-snow testing standards. When considering what tires to buy, make sure the load and speed rating matches the manufacturer’s specs. “Never go under that. You can go above, but you can’t go below. It’s especially important with an EV.” Electric vehicles tend to be much heavier and produce high, instant torque, so the rubber has to be able to meet the tougher demands.

Members can receive no-charge battery testing by calling 1-800-263-3616 or using the CAA Mobile App™ to request assistance. Visit caasco.com/battery for details.

An illustration of a car battery with a face and hands, standing next to a fire and warming up.

Battery Care

Have your battery checked to ensure it’s operating at full capacity, especially if it’s more than three years old. When the temperature is below approximately –20°C, battery voltage drops significantly. If your local temperature is regularly below –15˚C or thereabouts, consider a block heater, says Peterson. It will warm the engine and oil, so the battery doesn’t have to work as hard at start-up. (If you already have a block heater, make sure the cord is in good shape and, while in storage over the summer, hasn’t been chewed by rodents.) 

An EV’s battery pack exhibits similar decreases in output in cold environments. When the vehicle is plugged in, activating the preconditioning function (if available) heats the battery, allowing it to operate more efficiently, and results in decreased range loss. This preconditioning will also bring the vehicle’s interior to a comfortable temperature and cause less strain on the battery.

Browse emergency kits and other safety supplies and accessories at shopwithcaa.com. CAA Members receive additional savings on almost all items online and at our CAA Stores.

An illustration of two people wearing winter hats, sitting inside of a blue car driving during a snowfall. On top of the car is a large, orange safety kit.


Being ready for any scenario is critical, says Nadia Matos, manager of external communications for CAA South Central Ontario. “Stocking your vehicle with winter gear and essentials ahead of time goes a long way in ensuring that no matter what you encounter, you are prepared.” CCG’s Peterson keeps a winter safety box in his garage, ready to put in the back of his vehicle each season. 

What you pack in your box will be determined by how far you are travelling and the types of roads you will be travelling on, as well as their level of remoteness. “If you run out of gas, you’re going to get very cold very fast,” he warns. “And we at CAA will do everything imaginable to get to you as fast as possible, but if it’s minus 40, there may be delays. You need to make sure you’re safe.” 

Here’s what to pack in your vehicle’s winter safety box. 

Basic items

  • snow brush, ice scraper and shovel
  • vehicle owner’s manual
  • CAA Roadside Assistance contact information
  • windshield fluid (extreme-cold-rated)
  • cables and/or booster pack


Emergency essentials

  • first aid kit
  • lighter and/or matches
  • pencil and notebook
  • flashlight with extra batteries
  • drinking water and food (protein bars, etc.)
  • flares, warning triangles or reflectors


Extreme-emergency items

  • power bank and cords for charging phones
  • hand-crank radio and hand-crank charger
  • sleeping bag(s), blanket, boots, hats, mittens (for each passenger)
  • freeze-dried meals and fresh water
  • mini camp stove (high-tech canister system)
  • tarp or cardboard to lay on ice/snow while changing a tire or working outside the vehicle


Put your best wheel forward.

Visit caasco.com/auto to find all the CAA Automotive products and services available near you.