Every winter, especially during the first snowfall of the season, you hear the familiar whine “nobody can drive in the winter in this city!” The cars in the ditch along major Canadian highways are proof that the complainers have a point; many Canadian drivers could use a few tips to get through the winter safely.
Safety and saving money go hand in hand; smart, cautious drivers avoid expensive car repairs and higher insurance bills. A 2012 Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) study says that weather related collisions in Canada cost about $1.1 billion per year, and in 2009 there were 2,209 fatalities and 172,883 injuries.
To make sure you — and your car — are ready to roll this winter, we asked Kaitlynn Furse, spokesperson for CAA South Central Ontario, for tips on staying safe and avoiding any extra car-related bills this winter.
Furse says the number one tip is to install winter tires on your car. “They make a difference, reducing braking time by 25 per cent,” she said, adding that avoiding an accident is the best way to stay safe and save money on repair bills.
She explained that winter tires contain silica which grips the ground better, and their wider grips give you more maneuverability and control in winter conditions.
Having two sets of tires is more money up front, but each set will last longer if they’re not being used all year. If you put the winter tires on their own rims, the fee for switching them in the spring and fall is much lower than if you need to have them mounted each time, and you’ll also save wear and tear on the tires.
In Quebec, a 2011 Transports Québec study found that serious or fatal injuries dropped by 36 per cent after the province mandated that every driver must have winter tires installed from December 15 to March 15; the fine in that province for not having winter tires varies from $200 to $300 plus costs.
In Ontario, insurance companies are required to offer a discount to drivers who install winter tires — but you have to use all four. Some drivers try to get away with two tires on the front or back, which isn’t safe and won’t get you the insurance discount, said Furse.
Another way to save money on tires is to check your tire pressure at least monthly. “When the temperature drops, tire pressure drops too,” said Furse. Ensuring that your tires are inflated properly will give you maximum fuel efficiency.
The correct PSI (pound per square inch) for your car’s tires is usually printed inside the driver’s door or in your owner’s manual. Tire pressure gauges can be found for under $10 in automotive sections of large department stores or auto supply stores.
According to Transport Canada, about 70 per cent of the vehicles on the road in Canada have at least one tire that is either over or underinflated by more than 10 per cent – and you can’t tell by looking at your tires.
“Underinflation increases rolling resistance, which reduces tread life and increases fuel consumption,” says the government website, which explains that one tire underinflated by eight psi can reduce the safe lifespan of the tire by 15,000 km and will also increase the car’s fuel consumption by four per cent.
Warming Up Your Car
How long does your car need to warm up before driving in the winter – 10 minutes? 20 minutes? It’s tempting to leave it running to get the interior toasty warm, but the car’s engine will warm up faster when it’s driving. “It’s only takes 30 seconds until the car is ready to drive,” says Furse. “Any longer and you’re wasting gas.”
“We recommend drivers rust proof their cars with a company such as Krown Rust Control,” says Furse. Krown, a Canadian company, puts an undercoating on cars which can help protect cars from corrosion from salt, “This helps prevent wear and tear,” she said.
Keep your car’s maintenance up to date year-round; follow the manufacturer’s oil change schedule, replace air filters as needed, and keeping fluids topped up.