Top 3 winter driving tips

Cars driving in a city on a snowy day in Canada.

Driving  by Elmuzzerino.  CC0

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Is it your first time to drive in the snow?

If you have not experienced it, winter driving can have many challenges. In Manitoba, you should expect to be driving under this weather for four months (or more) in the year, so it pays to prepare for it. Here are a few tips to follow before and during the winter months:

  1. Prepare

    a. Get your vehicle ready
    The key to getting your car winterized properly is to start early. Getting ready before the first snow fall hits ensures that you will be able to complete all necessary measures since you won’t be rushing. You’ll also avoid long lines for tire or maintenance check-ups if you do it early in the fall.

    Start by tidying up the inside of your car. Vacuum the carpets, dust off the dashboard, and clear out your trunk to make space for winter accessories or tools. Replace your floor mats. You may also opt to have your car waxed to protect your car’s exterior. A good maintenance check follows, paying close attention to your car battery, brakes, windshield wipers, lights, and tires.

    This video entitled Get your car ready for winter: Advice from Consumer Reports has so many practical car winterizing, car maintenance, and emergency situation tips:

    b. Plan your driving
    Create a driving routine. First on the list is to check the weather and road conditions before leaving the house. Remember to take into account that you will be driving slower so you may need to leave the house earlier. Watch out for extreme weather warnings. Make sure that you have you have an emergency kit before setting off. Opt to stay home if you have no urgent business outside.

    Have enough time to warm up your car (never do this in a closed garage) before travelling. This reduces moisture on the inside of the windows. Also make sure that you’re properly dressed for the weather. This includes having a good pair of shades to deflect sunlight (remember, you’re in sunny Manitoba).

    c. Prepare a winter driving kit
    Gather tools, spare clothes, and food for any emergencies and keep them in your trunk (or inside the car as long as they are easily accessible).

  2. Pack a winter driving kit

    • Extra warm clothing (including hat and dry footwear)
    • Blanket
    • Paper towels
    • Flashlight
    • Snack bars, water
    • First aid kit
    • Road maps
    • Matches and emergency candles (don’t forget to open car windows if you need to light the candles)
    • Tire chains
    • Bag of sand or salt or kitty litter
    • Traction mats
    • Snow shovel
    • Snow brush
    • Ice scraper
    • Booster cables
    • Warning devices (e.g. flares, emergency lights, or brightly colored help signs)
    • Fuel line de-icer (methanol, also called methyl alcohol or methyl hydrate)
    • Extra windshield wiper fluid appropriate for sub-freezing temperatures

    Always make sure that your mobile phone is charged. Have a car charger with you.

  3. Learn about winter driving best practices

    Winter driving is all about practicing caution and anticipating problems in order to avoid them. Observe the usual safety precautions such as buckling up, slowing down (roads are extra slippery), being alert (especially for black ice), and knowing the proper steering and braking procedures. Watch this short video for helpful tips on safe winter driving from the AAA:

Here’s a summary of the tips from the video above:

  • Keep your vehicle in peak operating condition. Have it inspected before winter comes.
  • Pack your emergency kit in case you get stranded in snow.
  • Watch weather reports and delay trips especially when bad weather is expected.
  • If you must leave in extreme weather, let others know your route, destination, and expected time of arrival.
  • On the road, keep your gas at least half full to avoid gas line freeze up.
  • Never use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface.
  • Always look and steer where you want to go on wet roads.
  • Make sure to accelerate and decelerate slowly when driving in snow.
  • Plan maneuvers in advance and do one thing at a time.
  • Break, then turn, then accelerate. Keep your speed way down (it takes longer to slow down on icy roads).
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. Instead, drive on a slow speed and keep your car moving so you don’t get getting stuck. Keep your heel on the floor, and use the ball of your foot to break very gently.
  • If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, stay home.
  • Stay alert and stay alive!

Article updated December 21, 2023.
Adapted from: Driving Tips-Winter from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and’s How to Winterize your car.

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Top 3 Winter Driving Tips

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