Edmonton·Video

5 tips to get your vehicle ready for winter

You can feel it in your fingers and feel it in your toes: The first day of winter doesn’t officially arrive until late December but cooler temperatures will soon usher in snowflakes — and the season of winter driving.

'To get where you want to go in Edmonton, you have to have your car ready for winter'

As sign outside a service station in Cremona, Alta., encourages drivers to get their vehicles ready for winter following a snowfall last month. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

You can feel it in your fingers and feel it in your toes: The first day of winter doesn't officially arrive until late December but cooler temperatures will soon usher in snowflakes — and the season of winter driving.

"If you want to get where you want to go in Edmonton, you have to have your car ready for winter," says Kevin Hansen, who has worked at A-1 Tire & Battery for almost 40 years.

Here are Hansen's five tips to get your vehicle ready for the winter.

1. Tires

You may be good to go — but the bigger question is, are you good to stop?

All-season, more properly termed three-season tires, tires lose their elasticity and traction as soon as the mercury drops below 7 C. "If you hit ice or snow, these will not stop," Hansen said.

Options for winter driving include snow tires, ice tires and all-weather tires, true all-season tires that can stay on your vehicle all year, according to the Alberta Motor Association. 

Hansen prefers winter ice radial tires, which have biting edges "like little fingernails that dig into the ice. They stop twice as fast and start twice as good as any other tire." 

2. Under the hood

Speaking of good to go, you won't go anywhere with a dead battery.

Check for corrosion on the battery terminals to make sure they are making a clean contact, he said. As well, batteries should be tested to ensure they are charging fully.

Hansen said the average lifespan of a battery in Alberta is three to five years. "If your car is over five years old, you seriously have to look at it." 

Block heaters, which are standard on vehicles sold in Alberta, put less strain on an engine being started in temperatures below -15. Hansen advises testing the cord to ensure it hasn't been damaged. 

"If you don't have a block heater," he said, "use synthetic oil which is very thin and doesn't freeze and get thick like standard oil." 

Kevin Hansen, A-1 Tire & Battery, explains how to prepare your vehicle for winter. 3:06

3. Clean screen

Freshly fallen snow is pretty, but melting stuff — especially when mixed with dirt and salt — reduces visibility in a hurry. 

Wiper blades need to be checked and replaced if they're wearing down. While you're at it, swap out the summer-weight washer fluid with something that has anti-freeze, said Hansen 

"Once it freezes up, it's pretty hard to get it cleaned up and get the antifreeze in there," he added.

4. Straight talk

"One thing people seem to never mention for getting ready for winter is a proper wheel alignment," said Hansen.

Driving on poorly-aligned tires is a bit like skiing down the road, meaning the driver isn't fully in control, he said.  "Even a lane change could be dangerous if your tires aren't going straight ahead."

5. Half is the new empty

Water that forms inside a gas tank can make the engine difficult to start or even lead to frozen gas lines. 

"The secret is to imagine that half-full is empty," he said. "It's no more expensive [and] you would be safe."

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