Are You And Your Vehicle Ready for Winter?
With winter weather comes the responsibility to ensure your vehicle is prepared for cold, snow and ice.
Winter is not just a test for a driver, it’s also a test for any vehicle!
To give yourself a fighting chance for a safe drive, being proactive and ensuring that your car or truck is in good working order will save you a whole lot of grief down the road.
8 factors to consider when preparing your vehicle for winter driving conditions.
- Check your defroster fan function and heater coil, essential to keeping your windshield free and clear of condensation and for providing adequate heat
- Check your windshield wipers, to ensure they will maintain contact with the glass and provide streak free cleaning.
- Keep your gas tank no less than half full to avoid the potential for the moisture in the air volume in your tank from freezing fuel lines. Plus, the weight of the fuel can also provide a bit better traction on icy or snowy roads.
- Use winter weight oil, as a lighter oil will not be as thick in the colder temperatures.Your owners’ manual will tell you the best type.
- Use the right ratio of antifreeze in your vehicle, normally about 50/50.
- Check your battery. Most batteries are good for 3 – 5 years. Even with newer batteries, check connection points and ensure everything is tight and corrosion free
- Wax your headlights. Clean them, apply wax and buff. This will help repel slop and slush from the road and prevent buildup that can impair visibility, or from being visible, on the road.
- Let your car warm up. Before driving, allow adequate time during startup to let the engine warm a little and reduce unnecessary wear on your engine and other components, plus defrost your windshield. For safety with carbon monoxide, be sure to only start your vehicle in a well-ventilated area.
What Kind of Tires are Best for Winter Driving Conditions?
There’s no doubt about the fact that most of our true north strong and free requires some form of a tire to combat snow and ice on the road during the winter months.
But who to believe, what with all those tire company ads and t.v. commercials talking about Winter, All-Season or All-Weather tires?
Only you can decide what is best for you and your vehicle, with consideration to what kind of driver you are, and what type of vehicle you operate, as well as the typical weather conditions in your area. Think about far you travel from your area and what the weather conditions are in the areas to which you travel.
Maybe you head south for extended periods of time and see no snow, or drive to the mountains every weekend to ski and see extra amounts of the white stuff.
Types of Tires
There are 4 basic types of tires, each with specific characteristics that make it ideal for certain conditions, so choose the one best suited for your needs.
Winter tires are softer than the other types of tires, so they don’t get as hard in colder temperatures and allow for better traction. The rubber compound in a Winter tire is specifically designed to give better performance at 7°C or lower.
The downside is that these tires won’t last as long when driving on bare pavement in the hotter months, meaning they should be swapped out in Spring and reinstalled each Fall.
Studded Tires are just that, tires with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of tiny metal or composite studs built into the tread.
If you drive on roads which are constantly or consistently ice or snow covered throughout long Winters then this type of tire may be best for you and your vehicle.
The downside is that studded tires can be noisy ( much improved in recent years), may be banned in certain regions, or have time restrictions for usage.
All Season Tires
All Season tires are actually considered 3 season tires in Canada. These tires have relatively smooth and straight treads, great for gripping warm and dry roads, or for channeling away rain.
The downside is that these tires are not so good when the temperature drops and the rubber hardens, resulting in traction loss.
All Weather Tires
All-Weather tires are essentially a hybrid of All-Season and Winter tires when it comes design.
With a combination of straight and diagonal siping ( those grooves in the tire) and semi-blocked sections of tread, they are good for channeling away snow and water while providing decent traction.
However, with the rubber compound being not as soft as that of a true Winter tire, you do have to compromise on that traction to a degree.
Stopping Power of Winter Tires
Some recent studies on comparative tests of these different types of tires indicate that Winter tires can actually stop a vehicle 20.7% better than the All-Season tire and 15.3% better than the All-Weather version, while studded tires can actually stop a vehicle about 10% better than a traditional Winter tire (when tested on ice or hard packed snow)
Using Winter tires would require purchasing another set of Summer (All Season) tires and switching them out each Spring, which would increase initial costs. Of course, with each set of tires only being in service for 6 months of the year, your tires should last twice as long and there would be no real cost disadvantage.
Part of the responsibility of living in this part of the world is ensuring you have proper tires for the weather conditions. It is highly likely that it become a legal requirement to have Winter tires in certain months but currently Quebec is the only province with this law, based on a study that showed 38% of all accidents in Winter involved vehicles with only All-Season tires. B.C. also has mandates for Winter tires in certain mountainous areas.
With rain, snow, slush and ice building up on your vehicle while it sits outside in Winter, or blowing or spraying on your vehicle while you drive, it is essential to be able to have a clean and clear windshield through which to see properly.
Follow these 6 guidelines to maintain your existing wipers and determine if new ones are required.
- Inspect your windshield wipers, just as suggested earlier in this article. Lift the wipers away from the glass and run your fingers along the edge, feeling for unwanted chips, cracks or rigidity.
- Clean the rubber on a good wiper blade, using some windshield wiper fluid or glass cleaner and a rag to wash away built up dirt and grit.
- Warm up your vehicle and defrost your windshield, so that wiper blades are not stuck to the glass when you attempt to use them.
- Scrape your windshield, clearing off ice and snow which would cause a roughness or irregularities that potentially will damage the wiper blade as it drags across the surface.
- Remember your rear wiper, which is just as important for visibility as your front wiper.
- Replace worn wipers and do so in pairs, as typically one will be just as worn as the other.
Choose replacement blades based on your make and model, as outlined in your owners’ manual or recommended by an automotive supplier.
Types of Windshield Wipers
There are basically two types of windshield wiper blades from which to choose.
Conventional blades have a replaceable rubber blade that fits into a spring-tensioned frame assembly, or bridge. Most blades have a metal spline that supports the rubber element and runs through the ribs of the contact points.
Beam blades have no external frames, using instead a spring steel incorporated into the rubber. This feature suggests more uniform pressure on the usual curved windshields and therefore better wiping performance and are becoming increasing popular.
There are many reputable manufacturers and suppliers of windshield wipers to choose from and remember, you generally “get what you pay for”, though more expensive doesn’t always mean better quality.
Picking a wiper that is best suited for your vehicle may require some experimentation.
Wiper blade durability will only be determined after a few months of usage under the conditions to which your vehicle is subjected, which is different for every region. You’ll know when you have the right wipers and will willingly stick to that brand in the future.