Store Locator

Preparing your car for winter driving (part 2).

Jordan September 28, 2013
A SUV on a road covered with heavy snow.
Previously, we took you through the first half of our Safer Winter Driving series. We shared some valuable tips for maintaining your car’s exterior, windshield and fuel tank throughout Canada’s most infamous season. Canadian winters aren’t known for being mild or forgiving, so a little preparation and preventative care will go a long way in keeping you safe on the snowy roads of the Great White North. In the second half of the Safer Winter Driving series, we will provide you with additional tips on oil, tire, brake and battery care and maintenance.

Motor oil.

First and foremost, be sure to check your engine oil level. If you require a top-up or change, look for “SAE or API-SJ” or higher for the best protection. After all, it’s been called the lifeblood of any vehicle.

A closeup of a hand holding an engine oil dipstick.

In order to prevent excessive drag and wear during starting, lubrication systems require the proper viscosity of oil. 5W-30 is most commonly recommended by auto manufacturers for year-round operating conditions as it improves cold-weather starting as well as fuel economy and performance.

If you drive a diesel-engine car, check the owner’s manual to determine the best cold-weather motor oil for your vehicle.

Tires and brakes.

Good winter tires are one of the best ways to improve traction, stability and control during winter driving, but they’re often overlooked when prepping for the season.

Ensure you have four identical tires, especially if your vehicle is front-wheel-drive (they’re more prone to rear-wheel skidding). But even if your car is 4- or rear-wheel-drive, four identical tires will always help it perform better, especially on slippery roads.

A closeup of a snow tire.

Perform a monthly check for proper inflation pressure on all tires, including your spare. Tires regularly lose pressure every month (this is normal), but if they dip below recommended levels, you should top them up as soon as possible. You can usually find tire pressure information on the inside of the driver’s side door.

Your brakes and suspension components should be inspected once a year or every 20,000 km. If your mechanic discovers any defective or worn out components, you should have them replaced immediately.

Battery power.

At 0° Celsius, a fully charged battery loses 35% of its power. So if yours is weak, there’s a chance it won’t last through the winter.

While many of today’s vehicles come with maintenance-free batteries, periodic attention is still important to ensure good charge and connector condition.

A mechanic installing a new car battery.

If your battery is inadequately charged, it could be as easy as fixing a loose or worn alternator drive belt. Having your charging system checked will confirm that your battery is receiving a proper charge.

Batteries that are four or more years old are often considered near the end of their life. A test under load from CAA Battery Service or an Approved Auto Repair Services location will confirm its fitness for winter.

Engine care.

Engine coolant plays a big part in keeping your vehicle running well in cold climates. A 50/50 mixture of anti-freeze and water provides freezing protection up to -35° Celsius (-34° Fahrenheit) for your vehicle, which is enough for most Canadian climates.

A closeup of a coolant reservoir and cap with warning label.

This antifreeze mixture also comes in handy during other seasons, as it protects the car’s cooling system from corrosion and boiling-over year-round.

Visit a CAA-Approved Auto Repair Facility to have your coolant level, strength and condition checked before winter hits.

Nobody likes waking up early to warm up their car, scrape the ice of their windshields or trudge through their snowy driveways, and though it’s easy to pretend winter doesn’t exist, it’s difficult to drive safely without preparing for it ahead of time. Start winter off right and head to your nearest CAA Car Care Centre or CAA-Approved Auto Repair Facility and talk to our knowledgeable associates about what you can do to ensure your winter commute is a safer one.

As always, if you lose control of your vehicle or require roadside assistance, you know who to call. And for all your pre-season maintenance and tune-ups, head to the CAA Car Care Centre nearest you.

The information above is intended to provide general information only. Nothing is intended to provide legal or professional advice or to be relied on in any dispute, claim, action, demand or proceeding. CAA South Central Ontario does not accept liability for any damage or injury resulting from reliance on this information.