Advice from an Expert: Winter Driving Safety

DF SafetyHealth and Safety Tips

Winter is sneaking up on us again this year, and it is a good time to talk about winterizing your vehicle.  Since I am a safety generalist, I decided to bring in an expert and asked Matthew Lee, owner of Auto Hall Mechanic in Edmonton, Alberta, for a few safety tips.

Matthew Lee from Auto Hall Mechanic

Matthew offered the following recommendations:

  • Check your tires. They should be in good condition with plenty of tread. Tires should be replaced before they are worn to the wear bar. Winter tires will outperform all season tires and are a great option to increase traction on winter surfaces. The best choice is a tire with the mountain snowflake rating. Studded tires are another option.
  • Check to make sure your fluids are winter rated. Summer rated windshield fluid can freeze and damage your reservoir, or simply not work when it is needed. Have your coolant checked to ensure it won’t freeze and damage your engine block.
  • Check your battery: Winter conditions can make it difficult to start your vehicle. Have your battery and your block heater checked and tested (your mechanic can do a quick continuity check). Vehicles imported to Alberta from warmer areas might not come equipped with a block heater; these are easy for a mechanic to install.
  • Check your oil: Make sure you have the correct grade of oil in your vehicle. A good synthetic oil will help on cold starts.
  • Check your brakes: Brakes, steering and suspension should be checked on a regular basis for both summer and winter driving.
  • Check your equipment: Make sure you have good windshield wipers, scraper, and snow brush. It’s also recommended to have booster cables, or a battery bank, should you need for yourself or to assist other motorists.

In addition to Matthew’s mechanical recommendations, I would like to make my few suggestions myself:

  • Dress for weather. If you break down and have no heat, you can become cold very quickly, even in the city.
  • When heading into the country, you should have extra clothing and a warm blanket in the car. A candle can provide supplementary heat.
  • Ensure your cell phone is charged before you leave and have a charging cable or a battery bank.
  • If you are going to a remote area, I still recommend an old school paper map. These never run out of batteries!
  • If you have (and you should!) a first aid kit in your vehicle, take a look to see if it needs to be restocked or if there are any items that should be added or removed. If you aren’t sure what to include, here are some ideas: 
    • A flashlight 
    • Extra batteries 
    • Band-Aids, and disinfectant 
    • Jumper cables 
    • A shovel 
    • Flares 
    • A tire repair kit and pump 
    • Matches and a candle that can burn for an extended amount of time 

You always want to be prepared, plan, and be sure to give yourself extra time when travelling to and from your destination. Being rushed is never a good safety plan, but even more so during the snowy months. If the weather is extremely treacherous, and you are able, stay home. At the end of the day, your safety, and the safety of others, is what matters most. 

When driving on slippery, snowy roads, you always want to leave plenty of space between you and other cars. A good rule of thumb is at least two car lengths. The more distance between you and other motorists, the more time you give yourself to come to a complete stop without incident. 

According to Alberta Traffic Collision Statistics (2021), “the highest number of reported injury collisions was in December. December also reported more property damage collisions than any other month.” 

Always adjust the speed of your vehicle to account for the weather conditions. If you need to drive more slowly than you would under normal weather conditions, you should. This is another reason why giving yourself extra travel time is so important. Be gentle with the gas, accelerate and decelerate slowly to avoid slipping all over the road. 

Matthew Lee from Auto Hall Mechanic

While we certainly hope you won’t find yourself in an emergency, it is far better to be overprepared than underprepared. If you have questions about making sure your vehicle is ready for the winter ahead, contact Matthew today!

Remember to stay warm and safe on those wintery roads!