Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Winter hadn't arrived yet, but that didn't stop Canadian Tire from letting me drive some winter-prepared cars around an arena earlier this month to get a head start.

You've hopefully considered and purchased winter tires. The noticeable tread patterns will give you added traction on snow and ice. The biggest changes in technology, however, deliver what isn't so apparent: rubber compound.

This is about temperature, not snow. Those all-seasons that probably came with your car are too brittle once you get below 7 degrees Celsius. The way a hockey puck hurtles across the rink, those stiff tires travel the same way. Even at low speeds (20 km/h), we were seeing improved stopping distances in the 35 per cent range. We were testing Goodyear's Nordic Winter tires (currently starting at $86.99 each), but a little research will show you an large range of makes and prices for your car.

Story continues below advertisement

Consider a few more things, many of them costing very little while providing notably increased safety:

Winter wiper blades – like winter tires – are comprised of a rubber compound that stays softer in cold temperatures. The frame of the blade should also be sheathed to prevent snow and ice build-up. They adhere better to your windshield. The most noticeable difference? No streaking, especially dangerous at night when a windshield smeared with ice and snow can dangerously reduce your visibility. Sold one to a pack (many cars require two different sizes), most are easy to put on. You can spend as much as you want, but you can get good winter blades for under $20 each.

Winter-rated washed fluid; don't be fooled by labels that seem to represent what your thermometer says. It's the wind-chill factor you want to be aware of, so that minus-45 degrees isn't extreme, it's what you need. Canadian Tire recommends draining your reservoir (see your owner's manual) and refilling with the appropriate fluid. As road conditions can also change very quickly, it's a good idea to carry an extra jug for emergency top-ups.

Headlights: Now you can see, make sure you can be seen. Headlights dim over time, and accumulated snow and ice severely reduce your visibility to others. Replace any burned-out bulbs, make sure your full lighting harness is on when required, and make sure you're not cruising around with just your daytime running lights on. This time of year more than ever, you need your rear lit up; don't forget your 'auto' setting on your headlight stem, or better yet, just use your full lights all the time.

We're keeping our cars longer, which means all the components are going to need more regular attention. As your car ages, headlight covers can become scratched and dulled. If there's a true car buff on your list, Meguiar's Heavy Duty Headlight Restoration Kit ($36.99) is essentially a sander and polisher. The demonstration showed noticeable results, though its appeal will be to the real do-it-your-selfers.

Emergency Kit: In Canada, most of us are aware we should be carrying some form of emergency kit come winter. While Canadian Tire has assembled the obvious items in a handy carry-all (flashlight, jumper cables, tire sealant, snowbrush, collapsible shovel, first aid kit), there's nothing you can't put together on your own. I'd add a blanket and chocolate, as well as a pair of snow boots. You never know when you're going to have to push. A nice component of the various pre-assembled kits? Canadian Tire throws in a year-long membership to their Roadside Assistance Program with purchase of their kits, which start at $29.99.

Check your battery: Like tires, and cars in general, batteries have come a long way. According to Graham Jeffery, spokesman for Canadian Tire, batteries generally have a lifespan of around five years. He recommends getting it checked annually after the three-year mark, to locate dead cells before they leave you stranded. When you visit your mechanic, ask them to perform a simple test to check the battery; you'll get a printout showing you what's going on inside that sealed unit.

Story continues below advertisement

Driving Shoes: With winter comes winter boots, and instructors will tell you to change from your winter boots to driving shoes; that ends up being a perfect-world suggestion for an imperfect real-world application.

While big snowmobile boots keep you warm and dry while cleaning your car off, those same wide-toed monsters can prove deadly around your pedals. With little working space, it's just too easy to catch both pedals with a single foot, or for them to get jammed beneath. Forgo the clumpy: head to a hiking or outdoors store and look for smaller, narrower boots rated for cold climates. I have some by Merrell that are narrower, flexible and warm. They cost a little more, but they last for years and years.

Every year, it seems the first blast of winter catches too many drivers by surprise. Get your car ready, make sure anyone who drives it is ready to adapt their driving habits, and let's stay out of the ditches.

Send your automotive maintenance and repair questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

*****

Top 50 New Cars of 2013

Story continues below advertisement

Grocery Getters: Little cars, lot of fun

Fast and Fun Rides: Get your heart racing

Green machines: Emission impossible

Big, beautiful boats: Smooth-sailing luxury machines

Practical People Haulers: Sensible, even when image matters

Practical people haulers: High-end SUVs

Story continues below advertisement

Mid-market machines: Popular picks

Starter Luxury: Moving on up

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies