It may be an unseasonably warm October, but the leaves are falling from the trees — a sign winter is soon going to be here. It would be a load off the mind of many Conestoga students if they knew their cars and the cars they must battle for an available parking space were safe and ready for the impending ice and snow.
The first thing all websites with winter driving tips agree on is winter tires. They may not be easy to afford on a student budget, but they are cheaper than an accident. It is recommended you start thinking about winter preparation as early as possible and keep an eye out for deals on new tires, but if price is still an issue, used tire dealers such as Tire Empire in Kitchener have winter tires starting a $25 each.
Another recommended change to your car is the installation of winter wipers. These are equipped with rubber that keeps ice from collecting on the blades, but they are heavier then regular windshield wipers and using them all year runs the risk of burning out the battery. Switch them back in the spring or run the risk of having no working wipers in a torrential summer downpour.
Speaking of windshield wipers, make sure your washer fluid reservoir is topped up, and carry an extra bottle or two in the trunk. Clear visibility is a key ingredient for safe winter driving. Don’t stop with windshield washer fluid. Make sure all your fluids are topped up. Your driver’s manual, which is probably collecting dust in your glove compartment, can help you through this if you are not familiar with all the fluids your car requires and how full they should be, or you can talk to your mechanic when you bring your car in for a service.
Sometimes, no matter how safe you drive, unforeseen emergencies may arise. Be prepared with a winter safety kit. It is recommended your kit include a bag of sand and a shovel, flares, matches, first aid kit, extra antifreeze, a flashlight with extra batteries, a tool kit, jumper cables, extra clothing and a blanket or sleeping bag, non-perishable food and beverages, an ice scraper and a cellphone.
Fill your gas tank often, treating half full as if it were empty. This can protect you against gas line freeze-ups and, if you are stranded, you can use the engine to stay warm until help arrives.
Don’t wait until winter has begun to start taking care of your car. Make sure you get oil changes and proper maintenance done throughout the year to make sure all your systems are functioning well. For example, you don’t want to find out your rear defrost is not working once winter is already here. Rear visibility is key for safety as well.
When the snow comes, clean off your vehicle before you drive — all of it. It will improve your visibility and prevent other vehicles from getting hit with chunks of snow and ice flying off your car.
Conestoga College students are busy, but as winter weather arrives, slow down. Allow yourself time to travel safely. Just because you have winter tires or all-wheel drive, you are not invincible on snow and ice. It just means you have taken the time to prepare for the conditions winter will soon throw your way, but you must still be careful.