How to extend the life of your car in the winter, according to an expert

Yahoo Canada spoke to Chris Reynolds, VP of Marketing at Canada Drives, about all things winter driving.

Close-up of winter car tires in a winter scenario with snow and trees in a mountain road
Read on to learn expert-approved ways of maintaining your car when the slow flies. (Photo via Getty Images)

Canadian winters are filled with beautiful snowfalls, skiing, hot chocolate and more. Unfortunately, driving on slushy and icy roads come part and parcel with the Great White North.

Messy winter weather can be tough on cars, which means it's extra important to ensure your vehicle is in tip top shape before hitting the road.

In order to make roads safer for drivers, Canada uses approximately 5 million tonnes of salt to keep vehicles from sliding. However, it comes with a cost as salt can wreak havoc on your vehicle.

"Salt causes corrosion, which is really the biggest vehicle killer and it's the biggest vehicle value killer as well," Chris Reynolds, VP of Marketing at Canada Drives, said in an interview with Yahoo Canada. "You need to wash your car in the winter, every couple weeks. A lot of people don't wash their car at all, especially the undercarriage, so this is something I suggest people do."

Read on to learn more ways of maintaining your vehicle when the slow flies.

Man driver car traveling in winter.
"Humans who don't prepare their vehicles for winter driving is probably the biggest hazard," says Reynolds.

Safety hazards

Taking steps to protect your car in below-zero temperatures can help keep it in good shape during the winter months, which can maintain your car’s residual value in the long term.

But when it comes to winter driving, Reynolds reveals that it's actually humans, not wintry conditions, that are the number one safety hazard.

"Humans who don't prepare their vehicles for winter driving is probably the biggest hazard ... so people who don't put on their winter tires or properly care for their car can cause your car to not work optimally, stop working, or even cause accidents which can cause harm other people," he says.

To prepare for winter driving, Reynolds recommends getting your winter tires on as soon as possible. He also suggests checking the treads of your tires, as well as making sure your windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze is topped up.

"Humans who don't prepare their vehicles for winter driving is probably the biggest hazard."Chris Reynolds

Take your car to a professional

"Getting a basic inspection of your car by a professional ideally before, but if not during the winter is a good thing to do to make sure everything is working properly and to catch malfunctions before they happen," Reynolds explains.

When you get your car inspected, make sure they check the transmission fluid, hoses, belts and windshield wipers.

Moreover, Reynolds shares that these checks are important if you want to keep a high resale value.

"Stopping problems before they happen is beneficial not only for you to be safe on the road, but if something goes wrong you might end up paying more to fix it versus the basic upkeep that could prevent issues," he says.

mechanic holding a clipboard inspecting a car in a garage.
It's important to get your car inspected by a professional to keep it in working order. (Photo via Getty Images)

Properly scrape and de-snow your car

We've all been there — you're trying to get out the door when you see your car is covered in snow and ice.

But instead of rushing and doing a haphazard job of de-icing your car, Reynolds urges people to take the necessary time to clear off your car properly.

"It's very dangerous to scrape little holes in your windshield or windows without doing the whole thing. You have to fully clear your vehicle of snow, even the top of your vehicle too," he explains.

Snow on the back of your vehicle can also cause an obstruction for you and others, leading to accidents or fender benders that decrease the longevity of your vehicle.

"With winter driving you need to take a few extra minutes to make sure everything is dialled in," Reynolds adds.

"It's very dangerous to scrape little holes in your windshield or windows without doing the whole thing."Chris Reynolds

Mental awareness

Moreover, understanding how to manage your car during the winter, especially in possible emergency situations, is very important.

"You need to mentally prepare yourself before you drive. Something can happen to you every time you get in a car, so prepare yourself for all types of scenarios," Reynolds says. "This is all part of treating both you and your car with respect in the winter."

To prepare yourself for all types of winter scenarios, such as how to drive in blustery weather or icy roads, Reynolds recommends doing research, practicing, and watching YouTube videos on the subject.

"You can find resources on the internet about anything to do with winter driving and taking care of your car at this time of year, so use them!" he says.

Man with fuel hose nozzle tanking car in winter
Reynolds recommends keeping a full tank of gas at all times during the winter. (Photo via Getty Images)

Additional tips

While there are a plethora of things you can do to keep your car functioning optimally and safely in the winter, Reynolds urges people to consider the following:

  • Gas: "You should also constantly have a full tank of gas, which does two things: prevents condensation and water build up in your gas tank, and if you are stuck on the road or in traffic, you have a full tank of gas to keep you warm or to keep your phone charged in case you need assistance."

  • Be prepared: Reynolds recommends people equip their car with a car emergency kit, first aid kits, blankets and an extra phone charger in case something goes wrong.

  • Clean up: To maintain your car's value and keep it in good condition, properly wash the outside of your vehicle regularly (including the undercarriage), and vacuum/clean the inside of your car to prevent it from getting too dirty.

  • Start slow: "You actually don't need to warm up your car for very long in the winter, your initial driving warms your car up. Instead, it's recommended to keep your RPMs lower at the start of your journey and gradually increase it so you don't shock the engine."

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