It is 25 degrees Celsius outside and sunny, time to start thinking about winter tires

When the first snowfall arrives or temperatures dip below freezing, service departments are extremely busy with customers scrambling to get their cars winterized.

By Susan Gubasta

September may not seem like the right time to discuss preparing your car for fall and winter driving.

Actually, it is the perfect time.

In my experience, far too many motorists leave fall and winter maintenance until after the first snowfall or deep freeze. This is a big mistake.

When the first snowfall arrives or temperatures dip below freezing, service departments are extremely busy with customers scrambling to get their cars winterized. Wait times can be long and frustrations do mount.

Our service department advises customers to have their vehicles winterized in early or mid-October. If you are uncertain about when to maintain your vehicle, you can call your dealership or refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual – there you will find scheduled maintenance recommended by the manufacturer.

Here is a checklist of items to focus on as we head into October and November.

• Make sure that your vehicle’s documentation is in order and within reach. This includes proof of insurance, registration, driver’s license, and warranty information, important phone numbers (roadside assistance, emergency contact info, and dealership contact info).

• Check tire pressure to ensure that all four tires are properly inflated. Under inflated tired could lead to lower gas mileage and affect how your vehicle handles. Replace any tires that are excessively worn, as they can affect traction on wet and icy roads. New car dealerships sell and install most brand name tires for all types of vehicles, and many dealerships offer tire storage as well.

• Have a licensed automotive technician check the life of your battery. Batteries are sensitive to temperature changes. Any local dealership will provide this service.

• Replace excessively worn wiper blades. Worn wiper blades can cause smearing on a windshield, which could affect visibility when driving. In addition, this is a good time to replace the water with ‘cold weather’ windshield wiper fluid.

• Consider installing winter tires in early to mid-November, or when outdoor temperatures are consistently below 7 degrees Celsius. A study by the Quebec government concluded that proper winter tires improve braking by up to 25 per cent over all-season radials and improves collision avoidance by about 38 per cent.

• Do not ignore dashboard-warning lights, such as brake warning light, oil pressure light, and tire pressure warning light. Warning lights are designed to indicate that something is not operating the way it was designed. If it is a critical (red) warning light, the issue should be addressed immediately.

• Ask your automotive technician to review your steering system, suspension and front-end alignment. Our service advisors recommend this service at least once a year, and before winter sets in is a great time.

• Have your car’s cooling system checked for leaks or low coolant levels, which could result in engine-related roadside breakdowns. Most dealerships offer fall maintenance packages that include a multi-point inspection of the cooling system, brakes, battery, belts and hoses. Some maintenance packages also include oil and filter changes, wheel alignment and tire rotation.

• Put a few items in your trunk for when temperatures start to dip: ice scraper, blanket, first aid kit, matches, battery jumper cables, flashlight and energy bar. You never know when these items will come in handy – especially when stranded in a rural area.

The above car maintenance tips apply to all drivers (regardless of age) and all models. If there is a new driver in your family, I would advise sharing this column with him/her.
You are never too young or too old to learn about basic auto care.

Here is something to think about: our vehicles brave temperature extremes in our climate. Our vehicles continue to look after us from minus 40 degrees Celsius to plus 40 degrees Celsius. What we put into them is what we get out. Take care of the things that take care of you. Preparation is key!

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