These tips are essential if you're not used to driving in winter

Nov 23 2020, 4:26 pm

Winter (driving) is coming.

For many Canadians, the pandemic has been a motivation to invest in a new car. According to a BrandSpark study that surveyed 2,000 Canadians who recently purchased a new car (or were considering purchasing one soon), 10% were motivated by COVID-19 to do so.

Of those, 49% wanted to avoid public transit, 26% felt uncomfortable carpooling with colleagues, and 24% didn’t want to use ridesharing services.

With winter on the horizon, this may be added impetus to invest in a safe and reliable car that can carry you through cold and snowy conditions. In fact, 58% of respondents to the BrandSpark study said they needed a safe way to travel long distances — and who isn’t dreaming of a local road trip this season?

Whether you’re already a car owner or searching for a new ride, Kijiji Autos wants you to be fully prepared for winter driving. As the temperature drops, these essential tips will help keep you safe and confident behind the wheel.

When looking for an upgrade

If you have considered purchasing a new or used vehicle, keep in mind these shopping tips, recommended by Robert Karbaum, the Head of Business Development at Kijiji Autos.

“Especially in winter driving conditions, you want to test the vehicle in environments most comparable to your normal driving habits to best understand how the vehicle may, or may not fit into your lifestyle,” he explains.

Car buying is a complicated time right now, so make it easy on yourself. “Don’t be afraid to call ahead,” Karbaum adds. “Ask the salesperson to warm up the car you intend to test drive. No one likes driving in a cold vehicle, especially one covered in snow.”

“It’s a much more pleasurable experience testing a vehicle when it’s ready to go upon your arrival.”

Before hitting the road

Beyond checking the weather, there are a few precautionary and proactive steps you can take before pulling out of your driveway.

Putting winter tires on your car is compulsory and an easy, once a year thing. If you’re doing a lot of driving, tire chains or studded tires are definitely worth considering, too. Once that’s done, all you need to do is quickly check your tire pressure before driving anywhere, preferably with a tire gauge.

As you check your tire pressure, give the engine a quick glance. Pop the hood and take a minute or two to make sure all of your fluids are topped up. Brake fluid, power steering fluid, oil, and antifreeze should all be checked regularly, especially heading into the winter months. 

When you turn the car on, make sure your brake lights and headlights are working. This is a great chance to physically test the brakes, too. If the brakes ever seem to grind or pull, bring them in to get professionally serviced. 

Speaking of storm driving, check the windshield wipers while you’re at it. Getting caught in a winter fog or flurry is no fun without proper working lights. Are they working? Do you have a spare set in the car? These are important questions to answer.

Beyond a spare set of wipers, here’s a helpful list from Kijiji Autos of 10 essential items to check off when stocking your car, whether you drive mainly in the city or frequently spend time on the highway.

When you’re behind the wheel

Driving confidently in the winter means being prepared, but also requires careful (and confident) driving.

When on wet, snowy, or possibly icy roads, drive smoothly. This means avoiding sudden impacts to the gas or brake pedals and also the steering wheel. Start early and gradually apply the brakes or gas to avoid any wheel spinning or sliding. Keeping a safe distance from other cars makes it much easier to do this.

Many cars have systems to help make driving safer or easier, but they can become dangerous in winter conditions. For example, if your car has an anti-lock braking system, don’t “pump the brakes;” simply apply slow and constant pressure and let the car’s systems do what they were designed for.

When shopping for a new or used car, be sure to ask about these important features, like ABS brakes or cruise control. Not only will you want to know they’re there, but how to properly use them.

For this season and into the future

You don’t need to be a heavy duty mechanic to properly maintain your engine. Yes, you should definitely go for the scheduled check-ups your car needs, but there are things you can do every day that go a long way. 

Especially in the colder times of winter, using coolant or antifreeze can stop water from freezing. Not only that, but it lubricates the moving parts inside the car to optimize performance.

Warming up your car is also a ritual most people are aware of (and dread), but you may not be doing it exactly right. Starting the ignition in the biting cold and letting it run for several minutes actually might be doing more harm than good. It wastes gas and can cause stress on the entire car’s system.

A much better practice is to use a block heater to plug the car in overnight, or a few hours before you plan on driving. Think of it like your car’s chance to stretch a little before going for a run.

Being equipped with winter driving know-how feels good — whether you already have a car or are looking to purchase one.

For any other tips, questions, or a place to start your vehicle shopping, visit Kijiji Autos.

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