Whoever coined the term “winter wonderland” surely never had to drive on Alberta roads after a fresh snowfall. But the season doesn’t have to spell doom and gloom for motorists. With a little planning, you can help make sure your vehicle performs safely and efficiently on ice, snow and slush. And for more auto advice, visit ama.ab.ca/Auto.
Before You Drive
Check weather and road conditions. Allow extra time to reach your destination safely and be prepared to reduce your speed. Be sure to defrost your windows and remove ice and snow from your vehicle. Keep a full tank, or at minimum, a half tank of fuel. This will help reduce moisture in the gas tank and adds weight to your vehicle.
Switching to winter tires is the most important thing you can do for cold-weather driving. The flexible rubber and deep treads offer better traction on snowy, icy roads—and any time the mercury dips below 7 C. But large temperature fluctuations can cause tires to lose pressure: one psi for every five-degree drop. Refill as needed. In Calgary, Edmonton, Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge or Red Deer, AMA will come to you and change out your tires: ama.ab.ca/TireChange.
If you don’t already use synthetic oil, consider making the switch. Unlike conventional motor oil, synthetic oil doesn’t thicken in cold weather. It’ll flow better in winter, helping reduce the wear and tear of your engine.
Belts & Hoses
Over time, temperature variations can cause engine belts and hoses to crack, bulge and leak. Worn-out belts often make a squeak or squealing sound, while broken hoses may hiss. Visually inspect them—and if anything looks suspect, have a trusted mechanic check your engine.
Like winter tires, winter wiper blades just work better in frigid conditions. The best blades use a more rugged rubber that stays flexible in the cold and resists damage from wiping away ice and snow. For improved windshield cleaning, use winter-grade washer fluid, too.
Extreme cold drains battery voltage, making it harder to start your vehicle. Batteries more than three years old are at higher risk of wintertime sluggishness. Contact AMA Battery Service to get your battery tested for free. And if you need a new one, you’ll get member-exclusive pricing and on-the-spot installation. Planning a long winter getaway? Plug in a battery tender to maintain an optimal charge while you’re out of town in cold weather.
Engine Block Heater
Plugging in your block heater is a must once temperatures drop below -15 C. Use a block-heater tester to make sure it’s working properly before the cold really kicks in. Be sure to check for cracks and tears in the cord, heater and outlet you’re using.