Sure, it’s been merely a week since Halloween, and officially winter will only start on December 22nd, but let’s face it, winter really is just round the corner: see the temperatures forecasted for next week! Whether or not it’s your first year in Canada, there are a few things you need to know to prepare for winter conditions on the road.

Winter tires

Winter or studded tires are compulsory in Quebec, from December 15th to March 15th. Four seasons tires do not count as winter tires: your tires must carry the snow flake logo.

The other provinces only regulate the use of studded tires; but even if they are not compulsory, it is highly advised that you equip your car with winter tires, if you want to be ready to drive in the snow.

Most people have two sets of wheels, to make the switch easier. Try to anticipate and make early appointments at your mechanics’ or at Canadian Tire to avoid being caught by surprise by the first snow!

Anti-rust protection

With all the salt and gravel that are spread on the road during snow clearing operations, your car’s body will be exposed to corrosion and rust. To prepare your car for winter, it is a good idea to have it waxed or compounded to protect the sheet metal.

Options & accessories

Prep your car for the cold and snow with a few accessories and options that are truly lifesavers, such as the following:

  • Heated seats: to drive comfortably while the engine is still cold.
  • Heated steering wheel: if you don’t have one, leather gloves will keep your hands warm while adhering to the wheel for more safety.
  • Remote start system: start the heating and defrosting even before you leave your house.
  • New wipers: turn off your wipers before leaving your car to avoid damaging them on a frozen windshield; they will last longer.
  • Ice scrapers and snow brushes of various sizes: keep several of each for back up.
  • Windshield fluid in quantity: make sure it stands temperatures below -20° or -40°; you never want to be low in a sleet episode or in a snow storm!
  • A good shovel: to clear the way around your car before leaving a parking spot.

Emergency kit

Preparing your car for winter also means preparing yourself in case your car breaks down, or an accident or congestion forces you to stop on the roadside.

Winter exposes your vehicle to a certain number of common break downs, like frozen fuel or dead battery. To avoid those, always keep a good ¼ of the tank full and check your battery regularly at a repair shop.

Accidents and congestions are more frequent in winter due to bad driving conditions and snow clearing operations. Be prepared and plan longer commuting times.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of items which you must keep in your car at all times in winter in case of emergency:

  • A first-aid kit.
  • A flashlight, with spare batteries.
  • Food: granola bars, for instance; sugar keeps your blood pumping and helps you stay warm.
  • Water: it’s difficult to keep it in the car when it’s freezing, but always take a bottle with you.
  • Blankets: keep several blankets for you and your family, in case you have to lower or turn off the heating while waiting for the road to be cleared.

Assistance contracts

To newcomers to Canada who are not always prepared for our winter conditions, we advise you to contract an assistance plan. Some specialized companies offer assistance solutions for around $100 a year, like CAA for instance. You are covered as a driver, in whichever car you may be driving at the time. They assist you 24/7 with on-the-spot repairs, towing, replacement vehicle, etc. If you monetize your peace of mind, it is really worth it!

We hope our advice will help you prepping your car so that you are able to enjoy our great winter. As a conclusion, a Canadian saying that applies to everything in winter from clothes to car:

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment!”

You might also be interested in this popular article about How to Dress for the Winter.

Photo credits: Unsplash