To avoid breakdowns and other road-related problems brought on by cold weather, you are encouraged to have your vehicle thoroughly checked and tuned up long before temperatures drop even further, auto repair shops are booked solid, or you're knee-deep in snow.
"Cold, wet and snowy weather presents the greatest challenge to your vehicle," says Ken Cousin, BCAA's associate vice president, Road Assist. "Proper pre-winter maintenance will help you avoid mechanical problems caused by cold weather and reduce the likelihood of a breakdown and costly repairs. A properly maintained vehicle will also increase your safety while driving in treacherous winter conditions."
To help ensure you and your vehicle are prepared and equipped for winter driving, BCAA suggests getting a complete vehicle check-up, including the following:
Have your battery tested to ensure it's operating at maximum strength, and replace a weak battery before it has a chance to fail. Cold temperatures slow the chemical reaction in the car's battery, reducing its power output. A fully charged battery helps ensure your car will start. Clean battery posts and check the charging system and belts.
Tire tread and inflation
Check tire pressures often as air pressure decreases in cold weather. Don't mix tires. Having four matching, properly inflated, high quality winter tires will give the best traction, improving vehicle braking and handling on winter roads.
Make sure all lights work and are cleared of snow before driving.
Regardless of the weather, have your brakes checked or serviced regularly to ensure even braking. Pulling, change in pedal feel, or unusual squealing or grinding mean they need repair.
Heating and cooling system
Check your radiator, hoses and drive belts for cracks and leaks. Make sure the radiator cap, water pump and thermostat work properly. Use an anti-freeze with the appropriate strength and grade for the temperature and weather conditions in your area. Make sure the heater and defroster work well. When stuck in traffic, conserve battery energy by turning off the electric rear defrosting systems and/or heated mirrors or windshields.
Take the extra time to clear windows and mirrors of frost and snow before driving. Make sure your wipers are in good condition and replace blades that streak. Purchase wipers designed to withstand frost and ice on windshields. Top up your windshield washer reservoir with winter-grade washer fluid and carry an extra jug of washer fluid in your vehicle.
In addition to making your vehicle winter-ready, BCAA reminds you to be prepared when traveling during cold weather, especially if you plan to travel out of town. "Prepare for the unexpected and carry emergency items in your vehicle such as: a shovel, flashlight, some food, a blanket, warm clothes, and a fully charged cell phone," advises Cousin. "Plan ahead, check road and weather conditions. And drive for the conditions, not the speed limit."
Visit www.bcaa.com for more winter car care and driving tips.
About BCAA - BCAA is the largest organization of its kind in B.C., with over 100 years experience and gross annual sales of nearly $400 million from its membership, insurance and travel businesses. A BCAA Membership can be found in the wallets of over 785,000 British Columbians and in one-in-four B.C. households. BCAA has received national recognition for its home insurance customer service. And, for the past four years, BCAA has been named one the 50 Best Employers in Canada by international HR consultants Hewitt Associates and the Globe & Mail's Report on Business magazine. To learn more about BCAA's products, services and member advocacy, visit www.bcaa.com. For more information on the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation visit www.tsf-bcaa.com