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How to Get Your Car Ready for Winter

Key tips to prepare your vehicle for all the cold and snow Canada can muster

Pouring antifreeze into reservoir

We’ve all seen it before: stricken cars stranded at the side of a snow-covered highway, their frustrated drivers waiting for a tow. The best way to avoid that fate yourself is with a little preventive maintenance. So, with that in mind, here are eight tips that will have you and your car sitting pretty for winter.

Test the antifreeze strength. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water offers protection in temperatures down to -35˚C. All fluids should be checked and replenished if necessary.

Test the battery and charging system to ensure they will function properly in sub-zero temperatures. Not sure about your vehicle’s battery? CAA’s mobile Battery Service will come to you to test, replace and recycle your old car battery. (Some restrictions apply.)

Test your ignition system by getting an electronic diagnostic check. It’s an effective way to determine overall engine performance. It could also reveal problems with your exhaust system. That’s crucial because a leak could let dangerous carbon monoxide into the cabin, a problem that’s made worse when drivers keep their windows rolled up due to the cold.

Keep the gas tank at least half full at all times. Cold weather causes condensation in the system, which can lead to fuel-line freeze-up and can prevent your car from starting. Adding gasoline antifreeze every three to four fill-ups will also keep condensation under control.

Use the right oil. Most car manufacturers recommend 5W-20 or 5W-30 oil, as it improves cold-weather starting and fuel economy. The same rule applies to diesels.

Make sure your tires are up to speed. Winter tires outperform all-season tires in temperatures below 5˚C. On cars with front-wheel drive, make sure to put winter tires on all four wheels. Check all tires, including the spare, on a monthly basis for proper inflation.

Remove excess snow from the car before driving off. Any snow left on the roof might slide down onto the windshield and obstruct your vision.

Perform your own routine checks throughout the winter. Make sure all lights are working, keep the headlamps clean and change the wiper blades if they streak. Switching to winter wiper blades is wise; they help with visibility in snowy conditions. Finally, use washer fluid that’s effective for temperatures down to -40˚C.

Always carry an emergency kit. Keep it stocked with kitty litter or traction mats, a small shovel, windshield-washer fluid, an ice scraper and snow brush, a flashlight, flares, booster cables, a dry cloth, a blanket, extra clothes and candy or a chocolate bar for energy.

Want to make your winter commute a little more luxurious? Treat yourself with these essentials the next time you’re in the market for a new car.