Get your car ready for winter
- Take your vehicle in for a tune-up in the fall before the colder weather begins. Ensure your mechanic checks all the parts of your car that can be affected by extreme cold. See our Winter Tune-up checklist for more details.
- Be prepared for an emergency. Follow our Winter car kit checklist to make sure you have everything you need in case your car is stuck in the snow or you're stranded at the side of the road.
Before you set out
- Always clear all the ice and snow from your vehicle. Not only do frosted windows reduce your visibility, but chunks of ice flying off your car as you drive can be hazardous to other drivers. Check that headlamps, turn signals and tail lights are unobstructed by snow and ice.
- Be sure you have plenty of windshield washer fluid. On a snowy slushy day, you can easily go through a few litres of fluid trying to keep your windshield clear.
- Plan your trip. Consult maps or directions to familiarize yourself with the route before you set out. Check the weather reports and let others know when you're leaving and when you'll arrive.
- Always keep your gas tank over half full. This helps minimise condensation, and prevents gas line freezing.
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage. Carbon monoxide quickly builds up and is odourless so it can’t be detected.
- If you have a cellular phone, bring it with you; it can be very useful in case of an emergency. But remember to stop in a safe area before using it. Your first priority is always the road.
- Allow extra time to get to your destination. Leave a few minutes early.
On winter roads
- When driving in snow, do everything slowly. Rapid movements can lead to skids and loss of control, even with four-wheel drive vehicles.
- Drive with your headlights on.
- Always maintain a safe distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. It takes a greater distance to stop on ice and snow. Use the “four-second rule” (the time it would take to reach the vehicle in front of you).
- Leave enough space to see the rear wheels of the vehicle ahead of you when stopping at a traffic light or in stop-and-go traffic.
- Regularly look well ahead to identify hazards, such as snow blowing across the road which can reduce your visibility to zero.
- Use extreme caution on icy roads and keep in mind that hard-to-see patches of black ice are most often found in shady spots and on bridges and overpasses. If you suspect black ice ahead on the highway, take your foot off the accelerator and let the vehicle’s momentum carry you through the slippery area. At a slippery intersection in town, slow down much earlier than you normally would, so that you almost coast to a halt.
- When there is snow on the ground and the sun is very bright, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and prevent fatigue.
- Don’t pass a snowplough or spreader unless it is absolutely necessary. Treat these as you would emergency response vehicles.
In low-visibility conditions
- When visibility is reduced, turn on your four-way flashers and proceed slowly with caution. Turn on front and rear window defrosters. Do not use high beams as they only reflect the snow and make it harder to see.
- Drive as if there were eggs on the bottom of your feet. Step on the gas and the brake pedals so gently that it wouldn’t break an eggshell.
- Do not use cruise control. If the tires slip, it can cause your vehicle to accelerate and you can lose control.
- If your visibility on the highway is limited because of passing transport trucks, or blowing snow, in some circumstances getting off and driving slowly on a secondary road may be an option.
When it’s best to stay off the road
- Don’t drive in freezing rain. There isn’t a regular or snow tire that will safely hold your vehicle from slipping and sliding.
- Don’t drive when there are whiteouts or blizzards.
- If freezing rain, whiteouts or blizzards start while you are on the road, get off immediately, and try to find a safe area where you can stay put until the weather clears.
If you get stranded
- Stay in your vehicle. Do not try to walk for help.
- Run a stranded car for short periods only, first ensuring snow is not blocking the tailpipe.
- Open a window slightly when the engine is running.
- Cover exposed skin to avoid frostbite.
- Do stretching exercises to maintain blood circulation.
- During the day, tie a brightly-coloured cloth to your antenna to alert rescuers to your predicament. At night, use your vehicle’s emergency flashers.