Ontario winters are hard on cars and drivers. Commuting on salt-covered roads, dealing with low visibility, scraping ice off your windshield, waiting for the car to heat up—the list goes on!
Thankfully, with a bit of preparation and basic winter car maintenance, you can stay safer on the roads, protect yourself from surprise breakdowns, and save money on car repairs during the colder months.
Here are 10 winter car maintenance tips for Ontario drivers:
1. Check your car lights
Winter weather is synonymous with low visibility. Make sure your brake lights, indicators, headlights, and rear lights are all in excellent working condition before the winter months kick in fully. Get into the habit of checking them regularly during winter. And don’t drive off with road dirt and grime covering up any part of your lights.
2. Check the tire pressure
Check your tire pressure before winter kicks in and at least once a month during the winter season. Colder temperatures lower tire pressure. Keeping all your car tires adequately inflated can help to ensure they last longer and improve fuel efficiency.
3. Clean your car regularly
Believe it or not, cleaning your car regularly can improve road safety during winter. In winter, Ontario roads have a lot of dirt due to the salt and snow sludge buildup. If it’s allowed to settle,
the dirt can reduce visibility and trigger corrosion on your car’s exterior. Visit the car wash regularly during the winter season to get rid of the sludge.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the wipers, locks, and seals on your car to ensure they are properly dried after every wash. Otherwise, they may freeze, leading to avoidable expensive car repairs.
4. Change the wipers and keep the fluid full
It’s a good idea to change your windshield wipers every six months. Wipers become less efficient after a few months of use.
If there’s a time you need your wipers in top shape, it’s during the winter months. You don’t want a wiper that can’t cope when you’re caught in the middle of an unforgiving snowstorm.
Your wiper fluid also needs to be full each time you get on the road in the winter. You should ideally have a spare can of the wiper fluid in your trunk for emergency scenarios. Change your current wiper fluid during winter if it doesn’t have antifreeze properties.
5. Check the battery
Cold temperatures can reduce the power of car batteries. If your battery is less than three years old, it can likely handle winter in Ontario. But older batteries need to be checked properly, especially if you intend to drive a lot in the demanding cold weather.
If you’re unsure about your battery’s health and not sure how to diagnose it yourself, take it to a car service station for a professional test (or ask your mechanic about it next time your car is in for a service). You’ll learn if the battery fluid is low, if it has a full charge, or if it needs replacing.
6. Keep your gas tank above full
During colder temperatures, water condensation can form on the walls of your gas tank when it isn’t filled—and that condensation can freeze overnight in winter. If these ice crystals get into your fuel line, your car can have issues on the road. Keeping your gas tank above half full during winter can help to avoid this problem.
7. Use winter tires
Although winter tires aren’t mandatory in Ontario, they’re highly recommended. Especially if you drive long distances every day.
8. Check the oil
Before and during the winter months, you need to confirm that your oil level isn’t too low and that the product is at the correct level of thickness.
Oil thickens as it gets colder outside. If the oil is too thick, it may be harder to start your engine. For this reason, it’s a good idea to switch to lower viscosity oil in the winter.
9. Check the heating
Before winter temperatures start to bite, check your car’s heating to ensure it’s in good condition. You don’t want to be driving around in sub-zero temps with a heating system that doesn’t work. But your car’s heating system is also essential to road safety.
When the heating doesn’t work, neither will your defroster. And when the defroster doesn’t work, your car windows will likely freeze up immediately. Examine your car’s heating system before winter kicks in and have it checked out professionally if necessary.
10. Put together an emergency kit
Getting stuck on the side of the road in Ontario winter isn’t ideal. But it can happen. Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle to ensure you can stay safe and warm.
Your emergency kit should also include tools that can help you if your car breaks down— while blankets, water, and portable heating mats are good options. You should also store an ice scraper, flashlight, a first aid kit, and antifreeze wiper fluid in your trunk.
Protect yourself from surprise breakdown costs.
On top of routine maintenance, winter weather can lead to unexpected repair bills. While most extended car warranties will not cover the cost of routine maintenance, a good extended car warranty will protect you from surprise (expensive) repairs.
A GuardTree used car warranty subscription covers electrical, mechanical, and software related parts, including all powertrain parts. And additional benefits like roadside assistance, car rental, and trip interruption costs help keep you on the road.
If you want to protect yourself from the inconvenience and expense of a surprise breakdown—especially during winter—check out what we cover and use our price calculator to decide if an extended car warranty is right for you.
Disclaimer: This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute mechanical or other professional advice as it relates to your vehicle. Each person must consult a qualified professional with respect to matters referenced in this post. GuardTree Inc. assumes no liability whatsoever for actions taken (or not taken) in reliance upon the information contained herein.