Is your car winter-ready?

Best to get a garage to check if your car is ready for the ice and snow

Jonathan Milbury, automotive technician at Boliver’s Service Centre, checks a car engine.  Pipes, tubes, the battery and fluid levels are all checked during a professional car tune-up.  Seth McMillan, a tire technician, changes a tire in the background. Andrena Teed/Kicker

Andrena Teed

From mid-November, cars must be ready for winter.

It’s time to put on winter tires.  A winter tune-up is recommended before the snow flies. Get a winter-emergency kit in your car. Be prepared for any type of winter weather.

Tires are the most important item on the winter ready list.  When the temperature gets below 7 C, it is time to get those winter tires installed.

Winter tires are made from a softer compound that seems to grip the road despite the snow.  The deeper tread helps the tire find traction.  That keeps the car on the road during an emergency stop.  An automotive or tire specialist will inspect your tires and advise what you need. 

“Anything can drive down the road – it’s stopping where tires make a difference,” said Ian Longmire, owner of Longmire Tire Services in Deep Brook, N.S.

Ian Longmire uses a tire changer to remove tires from their rims.  He checks each tire for cracks, bulges and the depth of the tread. Andrena Teed/Kicker

Longmire recommended rotating the tires every 5,000 kilometres to extend their use.  It ensures that the whole tire is examined for wear and tear.  A damaged or worn tire can be replaced before it causes a problem.

“You need to be careful what you are putting in the vehicle.”

Any good garage will provide a multi-point winter ready tune-up.  At the minimum, the fluids will be changed, pipes and tubes checked for wear, the battery, brakes and exhaust system will be checked and adjusted if necessary. 

Antifreeze, also called coolant, is important for heating and cooling.  It breaks down over time and becomes corrosive. This causes leaks.  A mechanic can check the condition of the pipes and tubes, and the condition of the antifreeze.   It is important to get the right type of antifreeze for your vehicle.  Each vehicle has its own specifications.

“Probably fluids are one of the most difficult things to deal with.  With antifreeze, especially, you need to look at the specs. You really need to be careful what you are putting in the vehicle,” said Sonya Frost, manager at Boliver’s Service Centre, in Seabrook, near Digby, N.S.

Adam Sabean, an automotive technician at Boliver’s Service Centre, checks the specifications for fluids for a vehicle he is servicing.  Technicians are up to date on relevant information for all makes and models of cars. Andrena Teed/Kicker

The automotive technicians at a service centre have ready access to the most up-to-date information about the tune-up requirements for all vehicles.  A winter ready tune up will include replacing the fluids, including an oil change. Clean oil helps prolong the engine’s life.   

Check the battery and brakes

Frost said that the battery should be checked for winter driving.  An automotive technician will top up the battery fluid and check the complete starting system. Knowing that the vehicle will start during a cold winter night gives the driver peace of mind.

Sonya Frost, manager at Boliver’s Service Centre, checks progress on the day’s winter tune-ups.  Adam Sabean, automotive technician checks car specifications in the backgroundAndrena Teed/Kicker

A winter-ready check includes examining the brake system. Brakes get worn or damaged through use. Dirt from summer driving could cause problems with the brakes, making them less efficient.  On winter roads, a driver needs brakes that will work quickly, smoothly, and efficiently.  A check will ensure that the brakes are operating to their maximum.   

Get a car emergency kit

Both Longmire and Frost mentioned one item that Canadians should carry in their car. A winter car safety kit is crucial just in case something happens

A pre-packaged winter safety kit contains everything you need for a short term winter road situation. The items can be bought independently, to customise a winter kit for specific driving conditions. Andrena Teed/Kicker

A winter car kit will help keep a driver and passengers comfortable until help comes. It should have jumper cables, a blanket, a flashlight, a shovel, a bag of sand or kitty litter, and a phone charging cable.  Longmire suggested having reflective triangles in the car.  Frost said that granola bars or dried fruit and bottles of water are important.

Winter car safety kits are readily available for a reasonable price at most automotive stores.

Getting your car winter-ready is crucial in the Canadian climate.  There is nothing much worse than driving through slushy roads and running out of windscreen fluid. Or having a pipe leak because of corrosive coolant. Or the car refusing to start because the battery is not working.  Driving safely on cold, snowy roads requires a seasonal tune up and winter tires.

“Preventative maintenance really is what it boils down to,” said Longmire.

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