How to get your vehicle winter road trip-ready, from an expert’s POV

Nov 25 2021, 5:00 pm

It’s not officially winter, but we’re already thinking about the snow-covered landscapes that await on upcoming road trips. But with so much choice here in Canada, what route should you take first?

Carl Nadeau, a professional race driver with more than 25 years of experience doing stunt driving and precision driving for commercials and movies, tells Daily Hive that his love for driving means he gets bored when it’s all “straight lines” ahead.

“I love beautiful scenery,” he says. “One of the nicest roads that I’ve driven [on] was going from Calgary to Vancouver, stopping at Lake Louise, Banff, and Whistler. I love driving in the Rocky Mountains.” Nadeau was born and raised in Quebec City, and he describes driving from Charlevoix to Quebec City as “breathtaking.”

Today, Nadeau, a driving expert for Michelin Canada, teaches defensive driving to individuals, from teenagers who have just started driving to people looking to regain their confidence on the road. “What I like most is teaching what I know,” he says, which is why we asked him to share his tips for getting a vehicle ready for winter road trips.

Maintenance first

Carl Nadeau (Michelin Canada)

Before Nadeau even thinks about what he needs to have in his car for a winter road trip, he ensures that his vehicle itself is ready by doing some maintenance. “A lot of people forget about it [car maintenance] or tend to say ‘I’m going to save money, and I’m just not going to put too much in the car,'” he says. But in the long term, it “always ends up costing more.” He says that for him one of the most important things when it comes to maintenance is making sure his brakes are in “perfect shape.”

Vehicle alignment

The alignment of your vehicle is crucial for driving, safety, and precision, according to Nadeau. “People think about installing tires and balancing them so there’s no vibration, but the alignment of the car [and] making sure the wheels point in the right direction is so important.” He notes that if it rains or snows “it makes everything worse if the car has bad alignment and the tires are worn unevenly.” If just one wheel is not pointing perfectly, the tire can wear faster.

Fluid checks  

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When you go to get your oil changed, Nadeau recommends making sure you also get the windshield washer fluid changed. “People forget about it, especially when it gets colder outside. The summer fluid that we [have] in the windshield washer system is going to freeze,” he says. “Make sure you have -40°C [or] -45°C [windshield washer fluid] for winter, and that you have a spare [bottle of fluid] in the trunk of the car because vision is key to driving.”

Pack the extras  

Nadeau stresses the importance of cleaning your car windows before you start driving, so having a good broom and ice scraper to clear the snow is essential. In addition, you can pack a small, light battery booster pack. “It’s [a] $100 investment, but it can save a lot of trouble,” he notes. “And whether you have kids or not, a bit of food, a warm blanket; it’s all things that can help you tremendously.”

Assess your tires

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Nadeau recommends checking the pressure of your tires before heading out on a road trip. He explains that, although there’s no “set tire pressure for every car on the planet” as each one is different, tire pressure should be checked at least once a month. “You should always be able to open the driver’s side door [and] look at the black and white sticker that’s there; it’s going to give you the tire size of your vehicle and the recommended tire pressure.” A lot of the time, he says front and rear tires will have different pressure recommendations. And when you inflate the tires “don’t forget the spare.”

Install the right tires 

“All tires are not created equal,” Nadeau explains. “What I like about Michelin is they test tires when they are new and when they are worn to validate tire performance. The longer a tire delivers safe winter grip, the less likely the consumer is to discard it as it approaches the end of the lifecycle, which is ultimately better for the environment.”

Nadeau chooses to use studded tires for the extreme winter road conditions he faces when driving to his cottage with his family (often carrying a trailer with either a snowmobile or an ATV). The MICHELIN X-Ice NORTH 4 delivers the performance needed with its compound, sculpture, and optimized stud technology.

Get into the right mindset

TheCreativeBrigade/Shutterstock

The mindset you have before you drive is extremely important. “Try to relax [and] look outside; it is beautiful,” says Nadeau. “When you sit in the car before you leave the driveway, make sure that your vision is perfect all the way around. Before you put your car [in] drive or reverse, take a deep breath, and try to see if you’re tense. If you feel [any] tension in your neck, arms, fingers, [or] back, take 30 seconds before you leave the driveway.” By doing this, you’ll see it makes a “huge difference in the way you’re going to drive and feel.”


For more information about getting your vehicle winter road trip-ready and finding tires for increased winter performance and safety, like MICHELIN X-Ice SNOW tires, MICHELIN X-Ice NORTH 4 tires, or Ultra-High Performance (UHP) MICHELIN Pilot Alpin 5 tires, visit michelin.ca.

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