It’s coming: Are you ready for this?

Keeping your vehicle in peak operating condition is important at any time of year, but when it comes to handling Canadian winters, our cars can use a little extra TLC.

Here’s a few tips offered by mechanic Phil Richards, owner of Grand Motors in St. Laurent.

Get the right kind of oil for your car: If your vehicle is approaching its next service interval, be sure to bring it to a garage for an oil change. Make sure the oil used is the right viscosity, or thickness, for your vehicle at this time of the year. Oil tends to thicken as it gets colder, and if it’s too thick it won’t do the best job at keeping your engine lubricated. Check your vehicle’s owners manual for information on which oil to use in the different time of the year.

Make sure you can see: When was the last time you checked or replaced your windshield wiper blades? They usually work well for about a year, so be sure to invest in some new blades before winter if they are due. Also be sure to check and refill your washer reservoir with the correct fluid – water or cheap fluid tend to freeze. Also check to see that your heater and defroster are working properly be-cause a well functioning heating system will keep you warm and keep your windshield nice and clear or snow and ice.

Give your battery some TLC: This is the ideal time of the year to make sure your battery terminals and connections are free of corrosion, and that your battery has all the water it needs. If your battery is more than three years old, have your shop test its state and its ability to hold charge.

Examine your belts and hoses: When you have your servicing done, make sure to have your belts and hoses checked for wear and tear. This is important even if you are driving a newer model vehicle. Changes in weather can cause wear and some tearing on hoses, which can make them frail. This is a very important step that often gets overlooked.

Check your tire pressure: Tires must be properly inflated to ensure the best traction as you drive. Air pressure drops as the weather gets colder, so it’s always important to have your pressures checked of-ten. Your owner’s manual will tell you the correct pressure for your vehicle, or the info can be found on a sticker affixed to the door panel. Also don’t forget to check the condition and pressure of your spare tire, which is often neglected.

Change to winter tires: As we know, Quebec law stipulates that by Dec. 15, vehicles must be equipped with winter tires. The benefits of winter tires are proven, especially in Canadian winters. In Montreal, winter tires help improve traction to handle the many hills throughout the city and winter tires also improve traction to help reduce braking distances.

Check all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive systems: If your vehicle has any of the common traction systems like an all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive system, it is important to check the functioning and status of these systems to be sure they are working properly. If you are new to any of these systems, be sure to understand how and when to use them.

Check your antifreeze: Coolant/ antifreeze must have the correct mixture to improve heating and also avoid damaging your engine. It’s easy to check the status of the mixture with an inexpensive antifreeze tester, which you can get at any auto parts store. Be sure to check the condition of your radiator, an important part of your vehicle’s heating system. A properly functioning radiator also helps avoid overheating.

Have an emergency kit in your vehicle:
This can be as simple as a snow brush, a blanket, a pair of gloves, an ice scraper, a small shovel, a flashlight, windshield washer fluid, a first-aid kit and a spare change of clothes. It is always good to have something to count on in the event of a break-down or if you get stuck and find yourself in the same spot for a few hours.

With winter fast approaching, these preventive measures can help you make it through the cold months safely and without any hassles from your vehicle.

One of the most important things to remember for winter driving, however, is to just slow down and give yourself lots of extra time.

A police officer and tow truck driver look over a pickup truck wrapped around a light standard after it skidded off of the Henday west of Terwillegar Drive during a winter storm in Edmonton on Nov. 17, 2011. A police officer on the scene said the driver was taken to hospital with minor injuries, but his dog, sitting on the seat beside him, did not survive.
Photograph by: John Lucas,