It's that time of the year, when the smart motorist prepares his or her vehicle for winter's worst, while hoping for the best.
Below are five tips to take the chill off the cold-weather conditions:
Compact battery jump-starter: Small enough to fit in your glove box, strong enough to give you one jump-start in an emergency. Most of these units also feature a LED flashlight and a couple of USB charge ports for that road trip to Florida when the kids are looking for extra juice to power their iPods.
When and how to disengage your traction control: Next door to my garage is a daycare that has a steep inclined driveway. The number of times I have had to help its clients navigate this slope after even the slightest snowfall is disheartening. The parents getting stuck are always the ones with the worn-out all-season tires.
The excessive wheel slip engages the vehicle's computer-assisted traction control and limits available power to climb the hill. Locate the button on the dash with the car/squiggly lines on it. Push and hold it, which defeats the traction control. Doing so disables the power-limiting features and brings you back to the old-school way of winter-driving management. Spinning the tires excessively can cause transmission damage, so use with caution, but a bit of wheel spin may get the car out of a trouble spot.
Battery age: How old is your battery? When it reaches five years old, it owes you nothing. It may live past five years, but being made aware of its old age on the coldest day of the year is something most drivers want to avoid. At your next maintenance appointment, ask your service provider to load-test and replace if necessary or, at least, service the battery and terminals.
Rain-X glass treatment (spray bottle): First, clean your windshield with a Windex-style product. Now spray the Rain-X on to it, liberally getting it into all the corners. Wipe it off and do it all again. Achieving a streak-free application is a challenge but, once you master the technique, future applications will be a breeze.
A windshield with a healthy coating of Rain-X is like putting on a pair of prescription glasses that you never knew you needed. Water beads off, making those dark, rainy drive homes almost pleasurable. You will be surprised at how little you require your wipers.
Warm-up time: Idling your vehicle for 20 minutes in the morning is for your benefit, not for the car. The need to warm the engine for an extended period of time ended when we moved away from carburetors. With today's super-thin oils, all a vehicle needs is 30 seconds of warm-up time on most days – and two to three minutes on the extra nippy days.
Any more than that wastes fuel and adds to climate change and air-quality problems. Natural Resources Canada recommends a block heater with a timer set to two hours before starting the car instead of excessive idling.
Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail email@example.com, placing "Lou's Garage" in the subject area.
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