Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Winter Driving Preparation In Nanaimo

Remember Last Winter In Nanaimo?

While we can hope that last winter was most unusual and will not be repeated for another 25 years, it is still coming up to winter driving season. Are you and your car prepared?

Here are some tips to help you and your car laugh at old man winter, should he show up again:

Antifreeze: now is the time to have your coolant and cooling system checked and if advised flushed and new antifreeze installed. If you are like me sometimes you ignore changing antifreeze and back flushing your cooling system, but I don't think I am doing my car any favours by overlooking this important item.

Oil: If it has been awhile it's a good time to have your car's oil changed, new filters (oil and air) installed and chassis lubed. Oil changes are one piece of maintenance I am convinced always pays dividends.

Wiper Blades: With the fall rains we have already had, you probably know if your wiper blades are all they can be. Whether you decide to install some of the winter blades designed to handle lots of snow and ice, or simply install a new pair of quality blades, now is the time to do it. Driving down the road at 90 khm is no time to find your blades are not clearing the windshield. I personally have been more than satisfied with a good mid-priced set of blades I installed last summer.

Windshield Washer Fluid: Remember to keep the windshield washer fluid topped up and that you put in winter washer fluid which has antifreeze in it to keep from freezing. If you only have water or summer fluid you are asking for trouble, no only will the washer not work when you need it most, but frozen components can crack and break.

Ice Scraper: Do you know where your ice scraper and snow brush are this year? In a pinch a credit card on it's side will serve as a frost/ice scraper, but is no substitute for the real tool. Can't find your old one, buy a new one, you will be glad you did when you need it.

Battery: A weak battery may be able to get you through the warm summer and even cooler fall morning starts. However, it will fail for sure after the first cold night and leave you needing a jump start to get to work one morning. If your battery is any more than five years old you are doing well. It would be a good idea to take it in for a free drop test to determine it's health. If it is getting weak you are going to have to replace it anyway, so do it now and save the tow bill.

Belts and Hoses: Another component on your car that don't always show their age until the temperature drops. Lower temperatures can cause belts and hoses to crack and ultimately fail, usually at the worst time. Inspect your belts and hoses and replace as needed.

Heater: Now is a great time to test your car's heater to make sure it works in all modes, make sure the defroster is blowing good hot air to keep your windshield clear on frosty days. If you notice your window steams up when you turn on the defroster, it could be a sign you have a problem with your heater core. Also if you notice moisture on the 'inside' of your windshield you could have a leak, resulting in water getting into the car. Check your floor mats and carpets, and if they are wet, you have a leak needing to be fixed.

Thermostat: When was the last time you replaced your car's thermostat? It used to be just routine to put in a winter thermostat at this time of year to improve a car's performance. If it is not operating properly, it can take a long time for your engine to warm up, and for your car's heater to work properly.

Exhaust: Check your car's exhaust system and make absolutely sure all of the exhaust gas is going out the tailpipe at the BACK of your car and is not leaking out underneath your car. A leaky exhaust can result in deadly gases getting into your car. Remember, carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless and is deadly!

Tires: Last but certainly not least. However, it seems to be one component that quite often gets no attention until the first snowfall. Then it is line-ups around the block at your tire store, either getting new tires or installing existing snows. If you have good all seasons all the way around and most of your driving is in Nanaimo you will probably get by during a typical winter. You should have a set of chains as a back up for those 'freak' snowfalls if you simply must get to work. Remember that all seasons are NOT the same as snow tires and if you need to go up higher elevations all seasons will not cut it.

And on the subject of tires, remember you can extend tire life and improve gas mileage by making sure your tires have the recommended air pressure. Do you have a tire pressure gauge? Do you know what pressure your tires should have in them?

Emergency Kit: depending on where you are going to be driving will determine the contents of your emergency kit. But having a snow shovel, extra gloves, some sand or kitty litter (to get you unstuck) will be welcome additions on those rare occasions when you need them.

Hopefully you will find this list helpful, and you will do something about it before the first real taste of winter. Typically we get a pass in November, but from December through March, we just never know. If you have any doubts the above photo was taken in February this year.

Yes, I know, we usually can laugh at the rest of Canada and do have right to brag about living in the banana belt, but every now and then old man winter pays a surprise visit, and catches some of us napping.


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