It’s no secret that Canadians find winter driving a hassle, especially when compared with the relatively worry-free nature of summer driving. We all know that we need to dig our cars out of the snow and clear off the roof and windows before we can get anywhere on those extra wintery days, but how else can you keep your winter commute safe and free of insurance claims in the season of black ice and tardy snowplows? We’re Canadian commuters too, and we understand that most drivers aren’t able to let their vehicles hibernate in the garage all winter, so we’ve put together our best advice for helping you get through the winter driving season as safe and claim-free as possible.
Now is not the time to let vehicle maintenance slide.
Just because you’re not tackling winding, unpaved roads on the way to the cottage and your last fall road trip is long behind you doesn’t mean you can leave your car’s maintenance regimen out in the cold. Fitting your vehicle with good-quality winter tires once the temperature drops below 7°C will help you brake and manoeuvre your vehicle more efficiently, and the improved traction between your tires and the road will keep you from sliding into collisions and risking increased insurance premiums. Speaking of premiums, Ontario drivers who use winter tires all season get a discount on their insurance rates.
Installing winter tires will help reduce your chances of fender benders, but it’s certainly not the only safety upgrade you should consider to protect you, your passengers and your ride during the winter.
- Keep your gas tank topped up: A full tank makes your vehicle heavier and less likely to slide. Plus, you can avoid the need for any emergency route changes to fill your near-empty tank.
- Due for an oil change?: Check your owner’s manual for cold-weather oil recommendations.
- Switch to winter wiper blades — they are specially designed to grip your windshield for efficient snow-clearing — and don’t forget to add a good winter windshield washer fluid.
- Check your battery health: Your car’s battery works harder in the winter, and the average lifespan of a car battery in Canada is less than five years.
- Check your tire pressure weekly: Most owner’s manuals recommend 3 to 5 higher psi (pound-force per inch) for winter tires.
- Check the condition of your headlight protectors: Make sure your lights are able to shine bright in poor visibility. Non-LED lights can be especially susceptible to damage from winter condensation.
- Check your antifreeze levels, maintaining a 50/50 antifreeze-to-water ratio.
- Finally, get an overall checkup: It’s always safest to inspect everything in and on your vehicle that could be affected by the harshness of the season. This includes all the major systems, such as brakes, steering, suspension and ignition.
- Keep in mind that your vehicle’s belts and hoses are especially susceptible to cracking and breaking in the winter.
Plan ahead to stay safe.
It’s a fact that Canadian drivers know all too well: winter driving requires more planning ahead. Just like how leaving your home requires more effort (and layers) to protect yourself from the winter elements, that same level of preparation needs to be applied to your commute. Pay close attention to the weather forecast and avoid driving in dangerous conditions with heavy precipitation, icy/uncleared roads and poor visibility. Even in more hospitable conditions, you’ll still want to cross-check your commuting times with the forecast and allow yourself plenty of extra time for delays and slower, more cautious winter driving.
Update your emergency supplies for the weather.
Nobody wants to think about their car breaking down on the road, but updating your emergency kit with winter essentials will help keep you protected if you need to wait for help after an accident or mechanical breakdown. These essentials include:
- extra warm clothing, footwear and blankets
- heat packs
- a snow brush, ice scraper and portable shovel
- salt, sand or even kitty litter to help get traction on ice
- gas-line antifreeze
- road flares, emergency candles or warning lights
- flashlights and extra batteries
- extra washer fluid
- a spare tire
- a set of jumper cables (if your or anyone else’s battery dies unexpectedly in the cold)
- a first-aid kit
- drinking water and non-perishable food
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but If you don’t already carry emergency supplies in your vehicle, now’s a good time to start.
We appreciate you reading our tips for a safe winter commute and taking the time to prepare for winter driving. People like you are helping keep our cold Canadian roads as safe as possible every day. We also count on safe-driving superstars like you to show everyone else how it’s done. Remember, when we’re braving potentially hazardous winter roads together, every bit of driving courtesy helps. Treat every driving manoeuvre with a little extra caution this winter and make sure to give everyone sharing the road with you additional time to react. Leave more room between your car and other vehicles and signal before every lane change. A bit more preparation and keeping the basics in mind can help you steer clear of winter-driving mishaps and toward the safe-driver car insurance (and don’t forget winter tire) discounts you deserve.
If you’re looking for a deal on home and automobile insurance, we invite you to get started with an online quote. When you purchase home and automobile insurance through Hudson’s Bay Financial Services and aha insurance, you’ll be eligible to receive 4,000 Hudson’s Bay Rewards points.
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