Driving in Canadian winter is difficult even for experienced drivers. Extra precaution and alertness is vital while travelling during the winter season. More so, knowing the essentials needed for safe travels in winter helps a great deal. These 10 tips are the surest ways to get through driving during Canadian winter unscathed.
Always Check Weather Forecasts
Every driver in Canada is better off knowing what to expect with regard to the weather. Weather forecasts are the fastest way to know if there is a winter storm lurking, to learn about locations to avoid driving to, and when it is safe to get on the road. One very reliable source to get this information from is the Canadian government’s weather forecast website. You have the option to see the weather information for your current location or destination. In addition to forecasts, you get information on air quality, the direction of the wind, and more.
Have Your Winter Gear Handy
Be aware of the fact that anything could go wrong while driving in Canada during winter. If it does, you best be prepared. These are some of the winter equipment that come in handy:
- A charged cellphone to call out for help if your car gets stuck, you are involved in an accident or any other mishap.
- Thermal blankets or warm clothing to keep you from freezing, and gloves and warm socks to ensure you’re fully covered.
- A flashlight especially if you’re travelling at night.
- Boots for your legs so walking on ice would be easier.
- Portable car jumpers in case your car battery bails on you.
Drive Slower than Normal
We understand the need for speed – for some people, it is their default setting to race every car on the road; for you, it might be to arrive early for an appointment. Whatever the reason, driving during winter should be slow and smooth. As they say, it is better to be safe than sorry. So relax and take your time as you drive. When you have to make turns, slow down even more before making the move so your tires have a better grip on the road. Too much speed on a winter road is an easy way to lose control of your vehicle. It hardly ever ends well in such a situation.
Fill up Your Tank
Having a full tank or at least more than a half-full tank is a necessity for different reasons. One is that it adds some more weight to your car which helps to slow it down. Another is that you don’t want to run out of gas in the middle of the road in winter. Depending on the severity of the weather condition, you may not readily find a station to top up. For people who own electric cars, be sure to get a full charge before hitting the road. Although EVs have come to stay, there are still not as many charging stations as there are gas stations.
You also want to top-up on windshield fluid, making sure that there is enough windshield washer fluid in the reservoir. You also have to ensure that the windshield fluid is rated in the -40C temperature range.
Avoid Using an Electric Car
Electric cars are phenomenal and in no distant time should completely replace gas/diesel vehicles. Agreed? However, driving an EV in Canadian winter isn’t exactly advisable especially because these battery-powered vehicles are temperature sensitive. At temperatures lower than 40 degrees, an electric car begins to wane in performance; there isn’t as much power anymore. Why not avoid this drawback altogether? You’re better off driving a regular car during the Canadian winter.
Keep a Safe Distance Between Cars
It helps to keep at least a car-length between you and the car ahead for safety. Black ice doesn’t announce its presence on the road and it’s better to notice them early to avoid getting stuck. It is easier to do this when your car is not so close to the trunk of another car. Also, tires generally have less grip on snowy roads and it takes longer to stop. Being too close may lead to a collision when the brakes don’t respond fast enough. And mind you, suddenly slamming the brakes won’t help either in winter.
Be Observant and Pay Attention
Driving in Canada during the winter calls for rapt attention on the road, other cars, and the weather. If something goes wrong around you, you shouldn’t be the last to know. Always look beyond the cars in front of you to see if everything is fine up ahead. Recognizing hazards in time will help you avoid the danger either by changing direction or stopping. You should also see yourself as a guide for other cars following behind so that as you react early they too can follow suit.
Get Winter Tires
Regular tires aren’t built to survive the winter season, winter tires are. These tires have increased traction and grip, good enough to keep your car from sliding across the road. Unless you want to risk skidding and getting into a fix, you should get this tire. The province of Quebec has laws in place requiring drivers to have winter tires. Other provinces, however, recommend its use during winter. Whether or not you’re in Quebec, get these tires for safe driving.
Remove Snow from Your Car
This should be the first thing you do before setting out on the road. Make sure to clean your windows, the top of the car, the side mirrors. You don’t want snow obstructing your view while driving. And from time to time during the journey, make it a habit to stop for a minute to clean the windows. Of course, this will keep you from getting to your destination faster but at least you’d get there, in one piece.
Pump Your Tires
Did you know that tires lose air pressure when there is a drop in temperature? Yes, they do. Ensure your tires are pumped well (not past the recommended tire pressure though) so when this happens you won’t have a totally depressed tire.
Driving in Canadian winter is potentially dangerous without good safety measures. Winter in Canada begins late November to February or March. Prepare for the season with these tips in mind and you should have a safe experience on Canadian roads.