During long Alberta winters, we’d all like to have a Jon Snow around: an indestructible hero who can push a car when it won’t start or jump in to halt your sliding vehicle–brushes with death are kind of his thing, after all.
Alas, Jon’s busy
shooting season 8, fighting white walkers, being fictional, so we have to stick to the more tried and true method: winter-beating services.
Here are a few do-it-yourself services to give you more confidence in your vehicle, even in the worst conditions.
Check Your Tire Pressure
When the temperature drops, the amount of air in your tires decreases. That’s because when air is cold, the molecules slow down and stop taking as much space. When they take up less space, they exert less pressure on the tire wall. A low-pressure tire wears down quicker, steers worse, and brakes worse. Luckily, this is a quick fix.
When testing your tire pressure, be sure to leave your vehicle parked outside for at least three hours first. Use a manual tire pressure gauge to check the pressure, and if the pressure is lower than 30 PSI, have your tire filled at a gas station.
Note: If you’re driving a newer vehicle you might have a Tire Pressure Monitor System that will alert you if your tire pressure is low. Be aware that the cold air can sometimes cause false readings. Make sure to check your pressure when you see the warning, but there might be no need to worry.
Check Your Brakes
Icy roads will make stopping difficult enough. No need to complicate things with brakes that aren’t up to par. You should be getting your brakes checked periodically (typically they last 40,000 km to 80,000 km) and it is a good idea to get it done before winter.
Here are some of the telltale signs that you’re long due for a fix up:
- A constant squeaking noise means the pads are worn down.
- It feels especially thick when you press your break pedal
- Your car pulls to one side when you brake
If you’re experiencing any of these, go in for a tune up. Please don’t wait for all three things to happen before heading to the shop.
Get a Block Heater
Car batteries hate the cold. A weak battery in the fall will easily go dead in the winter, and there is no better time for your car not to start than a cold morning when you’ve got places to be.
A volt test is a great way to know if you are due for a new battery, and using a block heater to keep your battery warm overnight is recommended when temperatures drop to around -15 degrees. While most new vehicles come with block heaters, some may not.
If your car is left in extreme cold without a block heater, park near a building or tree. It is proven that a car will be warmer near something big rather than in open space. Cars get lonely too.
Get an Oil Change
In cold weather, oil can get the goopy consistency of maple syrup, which impedes flow. It is recommended to get oil and oil filter changes about every 3000 to 5000 km.
Another tip is to check your manufacturer’s manual to know what type of oil your car needs. Your manual might differentiate an oil to use in the winter by putting a W after the number (for example 10W-40 is common), but always stick to what the book says!
However, if you book your oil change at a Go Auto dealership, you don’t have to worry. We got your back.
Check Your Defroster and Temperature Controls
Heat and windshield defrosting are a necessity for winter driving. If you notice these functions not working, take in your car immediately. It is never safe to drive with impaired visibility.
Tip: Don’t panic if it’s broken. These types of repairs can be dauntingly expensive, but common issues from defrosters can be from jammed buttons or knobs, lack of anti-freeze, or a clogged vent.
Top Up Your Coolant
Coolant (or antifreeze) is what keeps your engine from freezing in the cold. Checking the coolant level, you can prevent severe damages to your engine and transmission.
Effects from running on low or no coolant will not immediately become apparent but cause long term and expensive damage. Check your manufacturer’s manual to see if a warning light will go off when levels are low. If you don’t have a warning light, it is recommended you check coolant levels about twice a year.
My tip is to be efficient. When you get your oil change, get the coolant checked too!
Make sure your lights are not burnt out, foggy, or too yellow. Winter is a time to upgrade your bulbs to whiter and brighter for improved visibility.
If you’re not keen on getting new headlights from your preferred dealerships, a headlight restoration typically works just fine and it’s cost effective!
If you are confident to do it yourself, headlight restoration kits are available at places like Canadian Tire, prices ranging from $15 to $30.
Tip: If you find that your lights aren’t working as well as they should, your first step should be to give them a good wipe down. Often they’ll just be covered in frost, dirt, or grime from sloppy winter weather.
Get New Wiper Blades
You’ll want to replace your blades any time they crack, tear, or make that horrible bumping sound on the windshield.
If you go out and buy a pair, make sure they are either rubber or silicone. It is a good idea to inspect your wiper blades about every six months, but you will definitely know when your wipers aren’t doing the best job. It will drive you crazy.
It’ll depend on what you’re driving, but a set of blades should only cost you $30-$60.
Top Up Your Wiper fluid
We would like to imagine a beautiful winter wonderland with the change of the season, but us Canadians know it is filled with dirt and muck. Filling up your wiper fluid is an easy do-it-yourself service you will not regret. Especially when a souped-up truck sprays you with some dirty snow.
Most wiper fluid in Canada is sold with an anti-freeze component, but if you normally buy a value brand for summertime, I suggest checking that your fluid contains methyl alcohol. What will you avoid: turning your windshield into a skating rink.
Following these recommended services and checks, you can surely beat the cold and feel confident – like sitting on the iron throne – driving your vehicle all through November, December, January…March…April… June?
This is Canada after all.
But before you start anything, take a look at your manufacturer’s manual to ensure an accurately serviced vehicle.
- Further Reading: Winter Tires vs All-Seasons: Which Do You Need?
- Further Reading: 6 Things to Do to Get Your Car Ready For Winter