October 24th 2022

Winter Driving Safety Moment

It’s that time of year again (Sorry!!) where we have to be aware of weather that can change quickly.

Our technicians, our office staff, and all of us in our personal lives, must drive through all conditions during the winter months. Snow and icy roads create multitudes of challenges for vehicles and drivers. Keeping your vehicle in good technical repair reduces our overall chances for mishaps - particularly in winter weather. To prepare a vehicle for winter driving give it a complete checkup. Look for the following:

Electrical System

  • Battery – one of the common problems during the winter – make sure your battery is still charging efficiently
  • Lights - check all lights (headlights, side lights, emergency flashers, directional lights, taillights, brake lights and parking lights) for proper functioning. During winter months – our lights are in use a great deal!


  • Check brakes when the car is in for oil changes and tune-ups – this is going to be your lifeline when stopping on ice.

Tires appropriate for the winter

Probably one of the most important items in winter is a good set of winter rated tires.

The traction between tires and roadway determines how well a vehicle rides, turns and stops, and is crucial for safe driving in winter. Proper tire selection is very important.

  • Four snow tires that are of the same type, size, speed rating, for better handling, control and stability. Use all-season radial tires only in areas that receive only light snowfall.
  • Use chains or studded tires on all four wheels when you expect severe snow and icy roads. Check with your local Department or Ministry of Transportation office to see if the use of tire chains or studded tires is legal in the region through which you are planning to drive.
  • Check tire pressure and if necessary, fill to levels recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. The pressure drops about 1 psi for every 5°C (9°F) drop in temperature.
  • Check wear of tires. Tires have tread wear indicators or bars that are inside the grooves of the tires. When the tread is close to (within 1.5mm) or the same level as the wear indicator, replace the tire as it no longer provides effective traction.
  • Check tire balance when your car is in for servicing
  • Check wheel alignment regularly.


  • Check the exhaust system for leaks to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Remember to keep the window in your vehicle slightly open if you find yourself stuck in snow, and run the engine and heater to keep warm.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow.

Heating/cooling system in the Car

  • Ensure that your vehicle always has a sufficient amount of antifreeze rated for the coldest weather.
  • Check the defrosters (front and back) to make sure they are working efficiently.

Windshield wipers

  • Ensure windshield wipers function efficiently. Replace them if they are old or worn.
  • Fill the washer container with an antifreeze fluid and top it up frequently.

Fuel tank

  • A good rule to live by in the winter months - Do not let the fuel level drop below ½ a tank - the driving time to the next gas station may take much longer than expected, and if you do happen to get stuck, the car engine will be your only source of heat.

Keep a winter driving kit in the car

A well-stocked winter driving kit helps to handle any emergency. It should include:

  • Bag of sand or salt (or kitty litter).
  • Traction mats. (when placed under the tires, can help move a car that’s stuck)
  • Snow shovel. (folding shovels are available)
  • Snow brush.
  • Ice scraper.
  • Booster cables
  • Extra windshield wiper fluid appropriate for sub-freezing temperatures.
  • Roll of paper towels.
  • Flashlight and a portable flashing light (and extra batteries).
  • Blanket.
  • Extra clothing, including hat and wind-proof pants, and warm footwear.
  • First aid kit.
  • Snack or protein bars and water.
  • Matches

Preparing for winter driving

  • Plan your route in advance.
  • Avoid driving when tired or fatigued
  • Contact your provincial "Road Reports" to get updates regarding road conditions if you are travelling.
  • Whenever possible, postpone the trip when the weather is bad.
  • Check weather conditions for your travel route (and time) before you begin driving.
  • Inform someone of your route and planned arrival time.
  • Choose warm and comfortable clothing. If you need to remove outdoor clothing while driving, make sure car is stopped.
  • Warm up your vehicle before driving off. It reduces fogging on the inside of the windows.
  • NEVER warm up your vehicle in a closed garage due to risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Remove snow and ice from your vehicle. It helps to see and, equally important, to be seen.
  • Wear sunglasses on bright sunny days.
  • Bring a cell phone if you have one but do not leave it in the car as the battery will freeze.
  • Delay washing a car on really cold days – the locks can freeze!

Driving on snow and ice

  • Wear your seat belt!
  • Always wise to drive slower on icy roads! - posted speed limits are for ideal travel conditions. Driving at reduced speeds is the best precautionary measure against any mishap while driving on slippery roads. "Black ice" is not generally invisible.
  • Be alert. Black ice will make a road look like shiny new asphalt. Pavement should look grey-white in winter.
  • Never use cruise control when there are icy conditions. Winter driving requires you to be in full control at all times.
  • Reduce your speed while approaching intersections covered with ice or snow.
  • Drive with low-beam headlights on if possible. Not only are they brighter than daytime running lights but turning them on also activates the tail lights.
  • Stay in the right-hand lane except when passing, and use turn signals when changing lanes. This is a good idea anytime you are behind the wheel.
  • Steer with smooth and precise movements. Changing lanes too quickly and jerky steering while braking or accelerating can cause skidding.
  • Be aware and slow down when you see a sign warning that you are approaching a bridge. Steel and concrete bridges are likely to be icy even when there is no ice on the ground surface, (because bridges over open air cool down faster than roads which tend to be insulated somewhat by solid ground.)
  • Consider getting off the road before getting stranded if the weather is worsening.
  • Be patient and pass other cars only when it is safe to do so.
  • Keep a safe distance back from snow plows, and salt/sand/anti-icing trucks.
  • Never pass a snow plow due to the whiteout conditions and ridge of snow created by the plow.

How should you handle a skid?

  • Look and steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go Just before the rear wheels stop skidding to the right or left, counter-steer until you are going in the desired direction.
  • DO NOT BRAKE! Take your foot off the brake if your vehicle starts to skid while braking.

If you get stuck or stranded in the snow?

  • Avoid exposure. Cold weather can put extra stress on the heart so be careful of over-exertion if trying to shovel out.
  • Stay in the car if you cannot shovel your car out of the snow.
  • Stay in the car in blizzard conditions - Do not leave the car for assistance unless help is very close and it is safe to walk. It is easy to get disoriented in a blizzard.
  • Turn on flashing lights or set up flares. A brightly coloured cloth or piece of clothing on the radio antenna may make your vehicle more visible in daylight.
  • Run the car engine occasionally (about 10 minutes every hour) to provide heat (and to conserve fuel). Ensure that the tail exhaust pipe is free of snow and keep the window opened slightly (on the side shielded from the wind) to prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide when the engine is running.
  • Bundle up in a blanket. If there is more than one person in the car, share - two people sharing blankets will be warmer than either person alone in a blanket.
  • Wear a hat and scarf - the head and neck are major sources of heat loss from the body.
  • Monitor for any signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Do not fall asleep. If there is more than one person in the car, take turns sleeping.
  • Do not stay in one position too long. Do some exercises to help the circulation - move arms and legs, clap your hands, etc.
  • Watch for traffic or emergency vehicles.