How-to Guide for Safe Winter Driving

A person pictured in their car about to go for a drive in the winter

Every Canadian can attest to how extreme our winters can be; and if you’re a motorist you likely know how the cold weather that can affect road conditions. Whether it’s dealing with snowstorms, freezing rain, hail or icy road conditions, it can be unnerving driving during the winter. However, the Good Hands Advice team wanted to do its part with some winter driving tips to help you drive safely this winter.

Tips for Preparing Your Car for Icy Conditions

Before we start driving, it’s important to first know the steps needed to help prepare your car for the season.

Prepare a Car Maintenance Checklist  

While it’s important to have your vehicle serviced regularly, extra caution should be taken during the winter. If you haven’t already, be sure to create a checklist of items for a certified mechanic to look after. These could include:


Installing winter tires.

While it’s mandatory in Quebec to have winter tires installed on your vehicle, we highly recommended to have them across the country. While you may think that all-season tires would be as effective, winter tires are built for winter. Cold temperatures can cause regular tires to become too hard; this means that they lose their normal traction, even when there’s no snow on the ground.

Check your tire pressure.

While on the topic of tire maintenance, it’s also important to check the pressure of your tires as cold conditions can contribute to them losing pressure. The wrong tire pressure can not only mean and increase in gas consumption, but it can also degrade your tires with premature wear.

Ensuring that your battery is tested and working properly.

Colder weather can seriously impact the performance of your battery, and the last thing anyone would want is their car’s battery to stall on a cold winter’s day. Bridgestone Tires has a great article that discusses how to test and replace a dead car battery.

Switch your wiper blades and fluids.

In one of our previous articles, we mention that it is recommended to replace your wiper blades every six months – which is fitting for our two major seasons. It’s important that your wiper blades are strong enough to handle the heavy snowfall, freezing rain and hail. Also be sure to have plenty of winter-specific windshield wiper fluids stored in your vehicle.

Get an oil check.

The purpose of motor oil is to help lubricate parts of the engine. Your engine has a bunch of moving parts to help it function, and when these parts rub against each other, this can cause wear and tear – causing the engine to not work as efficiently and risk freezing. In the winter, oil can get thick with lower temperatures and make it more difficult to properly do its job properly.

Check your brake pedals.

In the winter, snow and water can build up in your brake pads. As the temperature decreases, the water will freeze in your brake pads causing them to grind and make a squeaking noise according to Toyota Canada. While driving the brakes will heat up to melt the excess ice, however the process of freezing and thawing the ice in your brakes may contribute to long term damage to your brakes. Be sure to have them checked out by your local mechanic.

Pack an Emergency Preparedness Kit

You want to be sure that your car is packed with essential items if you find yourself stranded at the side of the road. While we have published a detailed list of what to include in your winter emergency kit the key items to remember are:

  • Non-perishable food and water
  • Warm clothing and blankets
  • Salt and/or sand
  • Shovel
  • Warming packs
  • Jumper cables
  • First aid kit

Tips for Driving Your Car in Winter

Maintain at least a half a tank of gas.

Having enough gas in winter is essential, as insufficient levels can cause trouble. CBC reports that when the air in the tank is warmer than the tank walls, condensation may occur, resulting in water mixing with the fuel. This can freeze into ice crystals and impede the fuel line, causing car sputter or even stopping it from starting.

Make space.

It’s recommended to keep at least three seconds of space between you and the car in front— more when the road is slippery. Braking may not be as easy to do if the roads are wet or covered in ice and snow. It’s also good for when you’re driving in low-visibility conditions.

Turn off traction control if stuck in the snow.

Many cars come equipped with the option to turn on and off the traction control; and by default, it may automatically be on. Traction control is a feature that reduces engine power if the tires have lost grip on the road. If you’re stuck in a snowbank, however, try turning this feature off. It may help you get unstuck.

Avoid distracted driving.

This tip is not winter-exclusive; however, it is important that, no matter what, you avoid distracted driving and stay safe. That includes texting, doing your makeup, eating, and adjusting your infotainment system while driving.

Drive defensively.

It may seem like common sense, however it is worth reminding drivers this winter to drive defensively. That means anticipating dangerous situations, adverse conditions or the mistakes of others when operating a vehicle.

Disclaimer: This information has been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice