12 Tips to Prepare Your Vehicle for an Ontario Winter

Winterize Your Car In Ontario

For some people, winter is their favourite time of year. They get to play winter sports, enjoy an entire holiday season and don't have to worry about it being too hot out. Others, however, aren't big fans of the season, primarily due to the cold temperatures and large amounts of snow, making many activities they enjoy harder or even impossible. One of the things that becomes much harder is driving, mostly due to all of the snow and ice that have created dangerous conditions. Harsh winter driving conditions in Ontario can be a significant challenge, even for the most experienced and confident drivers. Although safe driving and a cautious approach are always recommended, you can lessen the risk even further if you know how to winterize your car.

Why Is It Important To Winterize Your Car?

Driving in slippery and harsh conditions isn't just an annoying challenge; it can be dangerous. Constantly being one slip-up away from an accident that could cause serious damage or, even worse, can be very stressful. The best way to avoid stress, injury and dangerous situations during winter driving is to winterize your car. With a bit of extra preparation, it can help keep you, your family, and your vehicle safe all winter. While winterizing your car can seem intimidating, most of these steps are doable for most car owners.

When Should You Winterize Your Car?

Although waiting until the colder months to winterize your car may seem tempting, it's best you don't put it off for too long. This is because sometimes you'll get snowfall earlier than expected. Due to this reason, it is recommended that you start to winterize your car when it's still in the middle of fall, with mid-October being a commonly recommended time by experts. However, if you've put it off this year, it's never too late to prepare your car for the harshness of the colder months. Here are some tips to help you winterize your car and keep your vehicle running smoothly in frigid temperatures.

How To Winterize Your Car

Luckily, you don't have to be an expert mechanic to winterize your car. The process is well within the skills of your average driver. The following are simple tips for getting your car ready for the winter season.

1. Change Your Oil

Your car needs oil to lubricate the engine and keep it working smoothly, so changing it regularly, regardless of weather, is an essential part of car maintenance. This is even more important during the winterization process because cold temperatures can cause the oil to thicken, preventing it from circulating correctly. That is especially a risk with old, dirty oil, so it makes sense that an oil change is an important step to take when you winterize your car. Consider switching to synthetic oil for the winter months, as they aren't prone to thickening and, therefore, can extend the overall lifespan of your engine.

2. Install And Maintain Winter Tires

If you have a few years of Ontario driving experience, you already know that all-season tires may be made for every season somewhere in the world. Still, regular tires are not appropriate for our winter weather in Ontario. That's why switching to snow tires is crucial when you want to winterize your car. Dedicated winter tires have thicker treads that grip the road, even in hazardous, icy conditions, making it easier to keep your vehicle under control when driving on icy roads. Speaking of tires, check the condition of your spare tire and confirm that it's ready to use if needed.

Also, make sure to check the tire pressure as well. Your traction may be compromised if you're driving on a low-pressure tire, so check your tire's air pressure regularly, and if it's not, make the needed adjustments. It's also recommended that you ensure your spare tire is maintained and ready for the winter.

While safety is the number one reason you should switch to winter tires, your car insurance premium may also have a financial benefit. Speak to an expert Morison Insurance broker about a possible winter tire discount. Just be sure to switch back at the end of winter to avoid using winter tires in summer.

3. Change Your Wiper Blades

Next up on the list of steps you can take to winterize your car is changing your standard windshield wipers. It is recommended that you change them to winter wiper blades. This change is recommended because typical windshield washer blades aren't up to the challenge and can easily be clogged or broken by ice and snow build-up. Winter-specific wipers are much more sturdy and designed to sweep away snow, ice, hail and rain during inclement weather. Keeping a backup set of winter wiper blades in your car if one gets broken or falls off while on the road is also a good idea.

4. Refill Wiper Fluid And Antifreeze

Refills are among the quickest and easiest ways to winterize your car. Top up your windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze. After doing so, ensure that you put the remainder of the jugs in your trunk for later, as they'll need another top-up during the winter. When selecting the proper windshield washer fluid, choose a winter-specific option for temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius.

5. Give Your Battery a Check-Up

Nobody wants to deal with trying to jump-start their car in the middle of a raging blizzard. Giving your battery a thorough check-up is essential to winterizing your car. Look for signs of corrosion at connection points, and check to ensure adequate water levels. Remember, car batteries are only meant to last for about four years, so if it's been longer than that since you got a replacement, this is a great time to consider swapping it out for a new model that will remain in prime condition all winter. If you're unsure whether to change your car battery, it's best to be safe and do it.

6. Buy or Build an Emergency Kit

Regardless of how well you winterize your car, there's always the possibility of a breakdown, accident or another scenario that leaves you stranded with a vehicle that won't run. That can be particularly scary in a rural area where help is not immediately available. That's why, when looking for advice on how to winterize your car, one of the most important things you should do is ensure you're adequately stocked up on emergency supplies and equipment.

Two critical purposes for the items should be included: to allow you to move your car again and give you survival tools to stay warm until help arrives. In addition to the items listed below, you can bring many other things that can be included in a winter emergency car kit. An essential list of what items for your emergency kit includes:

  • Jumper cables
  • Small shovel
  • Non-perishables
  • Wind-up flashlight
  • First Aid Kit
  • Extra clothing, including extra layers, hats and gloves

7. Replace Cabin Air Filter

Replacing the cabin air filter is a step that can be easily forgotten. Still, if you're interested in how to winterize your car, this is an easy, fast way to help keep your heater in great shape all winter. No one wants to deal with a car heater that doesn't work when the thermometer dips below zero and then keeps sinking. Not all cars and trucks have a cabin air filter, but many newer models do. Check your owner's manual to find out what type and size you need, purchase an inexpensive replacement at an auto parts store or hardware store, and follow the manufacturer's directions to remove the old filter and insert the new one. This will make it easier for the system to get air through the filter, which reduces wear and tear on the blower motor and reduces the risk that you'll experience a heater malfunction in the middle of January.

8. Lubricate Door and Window Seals

The rubber seals around the edges of your car doors and windows lock out drafts and prevent moisture incursion. But if a bit of moisture gets into the cracks, it can freeze your door shut and leave you either out in the cold or stuck in your car. When you winterize your car, prevent that unpleasant scenario by applying a silicone-based spray lubricant for a few minutes. You want to avoid getting any overspray onto the interior or exterior of your vehicle, so don't spray it directly onto your car. Instead, spray the silicone lubricant onto a clean rag and wipe it along the rubber components of your doors and windows to prevent water seepage from locking your door against your will.

9. Change Floor Mats to Winter Mats

Another quick and easy way to winterize your car is by switching out your regular floor mats for ones that can stand up to snowy conditions. You're naturally going to track snow into your vehicle during the colder months, but it's not just snow—plenty of dirt and road salt mixed in there will leave white, crusty build-up on typical carpets and mats. Winter mats are rubber and have deep grooves to catch and hold snowmelt. That keeps all that water, salt and grime off your regular mats and the carpet underneath, and the winter mats can easily be rinsed clean when they get too dirty.

10. Get a Professional Tune-Up

Many people only consider taking their vehicle to a mechanic if there's something wrong. Still, a basic tune-up before winter hits can mean the difference between road-related disasters and smooth driving throughout the season. If you have experience maintaining cars, you'll likely take care of the tune-up yourself. But if vehicle maintenance is outside your wheelhouse, it makes sense to let the pros handle this task since they have the skill and training to winterize your car. Tune-ups include:

  • Checking brake alignment
  • Checking the battery power level
  • Inspecting the fan belt
  • Performing a diagnostic check for your engine

Many mechanics or auto shops will do this when you bring your car in to get winter tires put on. If you can research and find a mechanic who can do the tasks you need, you should do so.

11. Keep The Gas Tank At Least Half Full To Prevent Condensation

This step in winterizing your car is often dismissed as a myth, but this advice is genuinely good, especially if you use diesel fuel. 

Although your gas won't freeze, your gas tank is still prone to condensation after a drop in temperature. As a reminder, condensation is the opposite of evaporation: it's when water vapour turns back into its liquid form and becomes water. This is a lot more common in the winter, and it's the reason that your windows get covered in frost in colder temperatures. If this happens in your gas tank, the water will mix in with the gasoline, and after that, it could corrode your gas tank or engine or even freeze in the fuel lines, causing a clog. 

Although this isn't a proactive way to winterize your car, instead being something that needs to be kept up throughout all of winter, keeping your tank at least half full minimizes the room for water vapour to condensate, stopping this cycle from starting in the first place.

12. Make Sure Your Defroster Works

While on the topic of condensation, another critical step in winterizing your car is ensuring your defrosters are working. While plenty of drivers may take their defrosters for granted, it is important to remember that these devices aren't magic. They can get damaged; when they do, you must fix them. 

Speak to a Morison Insurance Broker to Learn About Your Coverage

Whether it's your pride and joy or just a helpful tool that gets you from point A to point B, your vehicle is a significant investment. By understanding how to winterize your car and maintain it through Ontario's cold winter temperatures, you can avoid unpleasant or dangerous situations, prevent damage, and reduce the need for costly repairs or replacements.

Part of protecting yourself from adverse scenarios is, of course, having the protection against financial loss afforded you by the right Ontario car insurance coverage. If you're concerned that you don't have adequate coverage against the perils you're most likely to encounter, speak to the friendly team of experienced brokers at Morison Insurance. Get in touch with us at 1-800-463-8074, or request a quote online to learn more about how we can address your unique insurance needs.

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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