Everything you need to know about winter driving preparations
Besides installing winter tires, your car must be well-prepared to deal with the rigours of winter. Inspecting, checking, getting equipment and carrying out some basic preparations before getting behind the wheel are important winter requirements.
Motor oil and transmission fluid
Brake fluid, power steering fluid and antifreeze
Operation of the heating and window defrosting system
Windshield washer fluid level
Windshield wiper operation*
* Note that windshield wipers with flexible rubber covers prevent ice from sticking to the windshield, improving visibility in freezing rain or hail.
Tires, including the spare tire
Starting and electrical systems
Headlights, turn signals, hazard light and horn
Prepare your equipment:
Taking precautions before you leave is essential, but it can't guarantee you won't have any trouble. Be prepared for problems by bringing along an emergency kit. It should contain the items below.
extra windshield washer fluid
flashlight and spare batteries
a bag of sand
To keep you warm
gloves and mittens
matches and candles
scarf and hat
To be seen... and safe
safety emergency flares or other light source (electric lamps, reflectors, etc.)
warning flag (to be placed several meters behind the vehicle)
carbone monoxyde detector
Before each departure:
Ensure that your car is completely clear of snow. Put your snow brush and scraper to use by thoroughly checking the car windows, rear-view mirrors, roof, hood, headlights and the license plate.
In winter, with the road surface covered with snow or ice, you are almost always in an emergency braking situation. Here are some basic tips for safe winter braking.
With Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)
Above all, do not pump the brakes. The anti-lock system is designed to prevent the wheels from locking in an emergency stop. You simply hold the brake pedal down as far as possible, even if you can feel vibration in the pedal. The advantages of anti-lock brakes are that they reduce the risk of spinning out and make it easier to maintain control of the vehicle. On the other hand, stopping distances will be longer on snow or ice than they would be using a traditional braking system. The moral of the story: do not overestimate the power of an ABS system, and remember that the effectiveness of a braking system depends on the state of your tires.
Without Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)
To brake effectively, you should gradually increase the pressure on the brake pedal in order to avoid locking the wheels. In an emergency stop you must first take your foot off the accelerator, and then repeatedly press and release the brake pedal in order to keep the vehicle moving in a straight line. This method reduces the stopping distance while helping keep the vehicle under control. You need to find the right balance, however. If you pump the brakes too quickly the wheels will lock, but if you pump too slowly it will take longer to stop.
A good habit to adopt is to keep enough distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you in order to stop safely. On a dry surface, this distance should be:
28 m if you drive at 50 km/h
50 m if you drive at 90 km/h
55 m if you drive at 100 km/h
In order to check if you are complying with this distance, apply the two-second rule. All you have to do is choose a reference point and, when the rear of the vehicle in front of you passes this point, count the number of seconds your vehicle takes to reach this reference point. If it takes less than two seconds, slow down because you are following the vehicle too closely. When the road has patches of snow or ice and gripping is reduced, double and even triple the number of seconds.
Highway Safety Code
The Highway Safety Code requires:
Section 270: “Every road vehicle must be fitted with tires that conform to the standards prescribed by regulation.”
Fine ranging from $90 to $200 + $10 fee
Section 265: “The windshield and the other windows of a motor vehicle must conform to the standards prescribed by regulation to ensure good visibility for the driver.”
Fine ranging from $90 to $175 + $10 fee
A Snow-Free Vehicle
Section 498: “No person may dispose of, deposit or throw snow, ice or any other substance upon a public highway or allow any other person to do so or, when driving a vehicle, allow snow, ice or any other substance to fall from the vehicle onto a public highway.”
$60 fine + $10 fee
Section 330: “The driver of a road vehicle must reduce the speed of his vehicle when visibility conditions become inadequate because of darkness, fog, rain or other precipitation or when the roadway is slippery or not completely cleared.”
$60 fine + $10 fee
Questions to Find Out More
Visit the "Quizzes" section and test your knowledge of winter road