5 Winter driving pitfalls solved
Tips to avoid the worst of winter on the road
Winter happens every year in Canada, bringing ice, snow and freezing rain. And while drivers across the country aren’t strangers to bad weather, driving in these conditions can still pose certain problems — at times, dangerous ones. But there are ways to avoid the worst of winter on the road. Read on for some tips on avoiding 5 of the most common winter driving pitfalls.
1. Running out of gas in a snow storm
You should always keep at least half a tank of gas in your car, especially during winter. That way, you won’t run out of fuel if you end up caught in a massive traffic jam due to a storm.
Or should you find yourself stuck in an isolated area, a reserve of fuel means you’ll be able to stay warm by running the engine for 10 minutes every hour. Just be sure to open a window a little to prevent a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide.
Remember, services like our Roadside Assistance program can always help in these kinds of situations.
2. Driving a mobile igloo
All it takes is one heavy snow to transform your car into a mobile igloo. But don’t go around driving a snow-covered car — even if you think you can see through the small patch of windshield your wipers have managed to clear.
Most provinces have laws penalizing drivers whose visibility is reduced because of an improperly cleared vehicle. Driving with a snow-obscured license plate is another common finable offense, as is driving a car covered in snow that could be deposited on roadways.
For example, in Quebec, driving a car covered in matter that might detach could net you a fine of $60-$100, while a snow-covered windshield could cost you $100-$200**. In Ontario, the set fine is the same for depositing snow on roadways as it is for driving with an obstructed windshield: $85. That could be combined with individual fines for each obstructed window.
Driving a mobile igloo could get expensive. But more importantly, it’s downright dangerous. Spend some time with a snow brush and it’s easy to avoid this problem.
3. Driving without adequate winter tires
Though snow tires are not required by law in Ontario and Alberta, they’ve been mandatory in Quebec since 2008, where they must be equipped between December 1 to March 15.
But just because you’ve got your winter tires on doesn’t mean your car is winter-ready. That’s especially true if your tires are a few years old. While the standard minimum for tire tread depth is 2/32”, Transport Canada recommends against driving on snow- or ice-covered roads if your tire treads are worn past 5/32” (4mm).
You can find out even more about when and how to replace snow tires in our Winter Tires 101 article.
4. Running short on windshield washer fluid
Let’s say it’s a sunny winter day and the pavement is covered in slush. The car ahead of you happens to spray your windshield with a mixture of water, snow and abrasive material. You think: no sweat—a good spritz of washer fluid will take care this mess… that is, unless, the reservoir is empty!
If that happens, it’s best to play it safe and stop at the nearest service station. But it’s an even smarter idea to keep a jug of windshield washer fluid in your trunk at all times!
5. Zig-zagging down icy roads
When it comes to drivers losing control, there’s nothing more dangerous than ice. But ice can be hard to spot, especially when it’s on a surface that appears dry. Be especially cautious on bridges and overpasses, and adapt your speed and driving style to the weather.
If ever you feel you’re losing control of your vehicle, don’t attempt any sudden manoeuvres. Focus on the direction you want your vehicle to go in, not where it seems to be taking you, and turn the wheel in that direction. If you want to do some sliding this winter, try a skating rink or a ski hill instead!
For even more ways to get ready for the season, check out our tips on prepping your home for winter. You’ll be all set for the months ahead!