10 Tips to Prepare Your Vehicle for an Ontario Winter

Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter in Ontario

Winter weather is fast approaching, and as much as we may fantasize about hibernating through the cold months with a warm beverage and a thick blanket, that's not reality—life goes on regardless of the weather, and we have places to be. Harsh winter driving conditions in Ontario can be a significant challenge, even for the most experienced and confident drivers. Still, you can lessen the risk if you know how to prepare your car for winter.

The best way to avoid stress, damage and dangerous situations during winter driving is to do a bit extra preparation that can help keep you (and your vehicle) safe all winter long. The brokers at Morison Insurance put together a few simple tips on 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, but in the winter, 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 a part of how to get your car ready for winter. 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 Winter Tires

If you have a few years of Ontario driving experience under your belt, you already know that all-season tires may be made for all the seasons somewhere in the world, but they're not appropriate for our winter weather. That's why switching to snow tires is a crucial recommendation for how to get your car ready for winter. Snow 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 tire tread, 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. 

While safety is the number one reason you should switch to winter tires, there may also be a financial benefit to your car insurance premium. Speak to an expert Morison Insurance broker about a possible winter tire discount. 

3. Swap Out Wiper Blades

Next up on the list of how to get your car ready for winter is changing your windshield wipers to winter wiper blades. 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, and rain during bad weather. It is also a good idea to keep a backup set of wiper blades in your car in the event one gets broken or falls off while on the road. 

4. Top Up Wiper Fluid and Antifreeze

These are among the quickest and easiest ways to prepare your car for winter. Top up your windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze, and then put the remainder of the jugs in your trunk for later, as they'll need another top-up at some point 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 as part of your preparation efforts. 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 perfect working order all winter long.

6. Buy or Build an Emergency Kit

Regardless of the effort you put into preparing your car for winter; 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 preparing your car for winter, one of the most important things you should do is make sure you're adequately stocked up on emergency supplies and equipment.

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

  • Ice scraper
  • Snowbrush
  • Jumper cables
  • Small shovel
  • Emergency flares
  • Tow cable or rope
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Cat litter, sand or road salt (to spread on icy ground so your tires can get traction)
  • Energy bars
  • Bottled water (opt for plastic bottles that won't break if they freeze)
  • Paper towels
  • Duct tape
  • Warm blanket or parka
  • Warm winter footwear (especially if you don't typically wear winter boots while driving)
  • Candle and can to hold it
  • Waterproof matches
  • Wind-up flashlight
  • Whistle (to attract attention if necessary)
  • Lock De-Icer

7. Replace Cabin Air Filter

This is only sometimes a step that occurs to people. Still, if you're interested in how to prepare your car for colder weather, this is an easy, fast way to help keep your heater in great shape all winter—and no one wants to deal with a car heater that doesn't work when the thermometer dips below zero and then keeps on 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 out in the cold. When preparing your car for winter, 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 get your car ready for winter 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 not in your wheelhouse, it makes sense to let the pros handle this task since they have the skill and training to know how to get your car ready for winter. 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.

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 get your car ready for winter—and how to maintain it through Ontario's cold winter temperatures—you can not only avoid unpleasant or dangerous situations but also 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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