Winter is coming. All across Canada, we know it's coming.
It will arrive early for some and later for others but, given that we all know it is coming, wouldn’t it be a good idea to prepare so that first dose of cold and slippery doesn't catch us by surprise.
Here are 10 things you can do now to take some of the worry out of winter.
1. Tires - Are you winter ready? You’ve probably got your insulated boots and grippy shoes ready, what about the footwear on your car? A set of modern winter tires designed to remain flexible in cold conditions, is the single most important step you can take to improve safety in winter.
2. Wipers – Look at them closely. If they were used last winter, the leading edges are probably roughened or scarred. Replace them with new ones – winter blades preferably.
3. Washer fluid – Make sure the fluid reservoir is filled with fluid meant for sub-zero temperatures. It's also a good time to aim the nozzles if they have been squirting fluid everywhere but where you need it. A needle from a sewing kit is useful for this. Insert in the nozzle opening and re-aim them.
4. Battery – if the battery in your vehicle is five or more years old you might be on borrowed time. The sheer demand from all the modern electronics combined with severe under-hood temperatures taxes the life expectancy of these important sources of energy. Have it checked by a shop with the proper equipment.
5. Belts – open the hood and take a peek. Are the drive belts at the front of the engine getting frayed or shiny? Are they loose? They’ve got a lot to do in the coming months, so now is the time to replace them if needed – not while pulled over to the side of the road in nasty winter conditions.
6. Hoses – Engines creates heat – lots of it. And heat takes its toll on critical components such as radiator and heater hoses. If a hose develops a leak or bursts, the engine be starved of critical coolant – potentially causing it to seize and creating thousands of dollars in damage. Check the hoses for soft spots and check for visible signs of leakage not only to and from the radiator, but to and from the heater.
7. Coolant – The liquid in the cooling system is more than just water. It is a mixture of fluids and additives designed to not only resist freezing during the cold winter months and transfer heat away from the engine, but also to act as a lubricant for a number of components. To ensure this vital fluid retains its critical properties, experts advise that it be replaced every two to three years and that the system beflushed to remove impurities and abrasive and corrosive by-products.
8. Engine Oil – Engine Oil is similarly a multi-purpose liquid providing not only lubrication, but assisting with engine cooling and providing protection from corrosion caused by the nasty by-products of the ignition process. It has to be thin enough to provide lubrication during and immediately after startup on the coldest winter morning – the most crucial time for engine wear. But the oil also must retain its viscosity, or thickness, as the engine heats up and reaches maximum operating temperature. It takes a lot of science to produce oil that can be thin enough when cold and thick enough when hot. Be sure to use the oil grade specified by your vehicle's manufacturer for the temperature conditions you'll encounter.
9. Glass – the film accumulated on the inside of window glass results from gases released by all the plastics inside, when they're heated up in summer (as well as from smoking inside the vehicle). Not only does that haze itself restrict vision, it acts as a catalyst for the formation of frost. You may not realize it is is there but take a tissue or clean cloth and wipe a finger-size streak across the inside of the windshield and there it is. Surprise! A good cleaning will greatly improve visibility, especially at night.
10. Lights – a quick check to be sure all the lights are working properly can save a lot of grief later on. Ask a friend or family member to walk around and check them while you try them all, and replace or repair any that aren't working properly.
Follow these ten suggestions and you'll be better prepared and ready for that first nasty surprise when you wake up some frosty winter morning – soon.
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