It may be an icy winter wonderland out there, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay confined to your house and hibernate for the season. There are plenty of fun reasons to hit the road during the chilliest months, from ski trips to Christmas visits with the family.
The key to great winter road trips, of course, is being prepared. Winter throws plenty of extra curveballs at drivers, which means you need to make sure you’ve got all of your ducks in a row before you embark on your winter journey. After all, the last thing you want is for your car to conk out on you in sub-zero temperatures in the middle of nowhere.
There’s a lot to remember, so we’ve compiled a handy list of must-dos for you to check off your list before you go.
1. Get a tune-up. It’s always a good idea to make sure your car is in good working order before the streets get icy, especially if you’re planning on logging some winter road trips. A good mechanic will know what to look for, so you can hit the road knowing that your car is leak-free and your belts and hoses are in good shape. Be sure to ask for an oil change, too, while you’re there.
2. Check your battery. Get it load-tested, especially if your car is a bit older; it’s harder for your battery to hold a charge in cold weather, so a weak battery and freezing temperatures are a risky combination. With the proper resources, you can learn to boost and check a your own battery within minutes.
3. Change your tires. Yes, it’s time to haul out the snow tires. If you’re going to be heading to an area that will require extra traction (like the mountains), you may want to throw some tire chains in the trunk in case you need to install them to help to navigate heavy snow. Tire chains aren’t always permitted in all of the provinces, so check this CAA list before you go.
4. Check the coolant. To avoid damage to your engine and to keep your heat from conking out, you’ll want to make sure you have enough coolant in your car, and that it’s designed to perform in cold temperatures.
5. Bring extra windshield washer fluid. Visibility is key when driving in snowy weather, so you definitely won’t want to run out of windshield washer fluid. Make sure it’s winter washer fluid that can stand up to sub-zero temperatures.
6. Fuel up. AutoWeek recommends always keeping your tank at least half-full to prevent your gas-line from freezing up.
7. Be prepared. Stock your car with winter must-haves like ice scrapers, wiper fluid and jumper cables.
8. Pack an emergency kit. Even if your car is in tip-top form, you may still get side-tracked by factors beyond your control, like crazy snow storms. Hopefully your car won’t get snowed in anywhere, but in case it does, make sure you’re prepared with a shovel and sand (or kitty litter) to dig yourself out, as well a first aid kit. It’s always a good idea to throw in some warm blankets, bottled water and snacks, too, in case you’re stuck for a while. Check out Transport Canada’s video for even more ideas about what to include in your winter driving emergency kit.
9. Check for road closures. This one sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s an easy one to forget while you’re scrambling to get ready for your trip. Trust us; a simple internet search to see if any of the roads along your planned route are closed will save you a lot of time and hassle.
10. Charge your mobile phone. If, despite your best efforts, your car does conk out, you’re going to need to call someone. So make sure your mobile phone is juiced up before you hit the road.