Winter driving doesn’t have to be scary

Winter driving doesn’t have to be scary
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Specialty mechanic Fatih Tinaz removing the brake caliper to change disc brakes. Well-maintained brakes are crucial to safe winter driving

By Octavian Lacatusu

During the summer months, vehicles are punished with high humidity and heat, as they are tasked to keep us cool and comfortable. But it’s during the winter months however when the strain on the vehicle becomes monumental. Fluids freeze. Tires wear out. Rusty steel breaks apart like cheese. We’ve all heard this lullaby. Yes, once again time for winter maintenance.

Tires are a first priority. Whether your car is equipped with all-seasons or has a winter set already installed, be sure to check the depth of the thread. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Board, the tire thread needs to be at least 2/32” deep to be safe. Naturally, the longevity of the tires depends on the quality itself, as some winter tires see such early retirement. Centennial student Dennis Wu isn’t taking any chances this winter. “I’ve installed winter tires both on my van and Acura,” Wu said, already prepped for icy roads. “Both sets of tires are nearly two years old, but grip is still good.”

Either way, tires have a nasty habit of losing air pressure during the winter months, due to lower temperatures. “Keep an eye on the tire pressure, as it can significantly decrease as it gets colder,” said Fatih Tinaz, specialist mechanic at the York Mills Automotive Center. “People believe the higher the pressure in the tires, the higher the risk of a blow-out, but it is in fact the opposite.” Lack of air in the tire puts strain on the wheel sidewall, where the entire weight of the vehicle is carried. This could result to the sidewall overheating the tire, thus causing a blowout.

Checking the fluid levels is equally critical. The brake fluid level should be slightly above the middle, and make sure there aren’t any leaks. A full tank of washer fluid is also important and necessary as it can improve visibility dramatically. Then there’s antifreeze, a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze fluid, which goes into the radiator to keep it from cracking in extremely cold temperatures.

“Put antifreeze in and hope for the best,” said Andrew Philips, a Centennial student who will be storing his Accord outside this winter.

Modern technology in vehicles has undoubtedly helped keep us from smiling in a tree. Equipped with the likes of ABS (anti-lock brakes), this allows the driver to brake and steer at the same time in emergency situations. Without ABS, the wheels are prone to lock under heavy braking, causing the car to slide straight out of control.

Taking a closer look at the battery could also save you a heart shuddering “click-click” which is the sign of a dead battery. “Make sure the plus and minus connection plugs are properly attached,” Tinaz said. “A leaking, corroded battery is a sure sign you need to get a new one.”

A thorough mechanical check never hurts, as it can expose hidden electrical gremlins and rusting components such as brake lines and fuel lines. Besides safety and reliability, winter maintenance and rust proofing will ensure your vehicle won’t be a cancer on wheels by the end of the winter season.

Some quick tips for safely getting your car on the road (and keeping it there, too!) this winter


1. Tires, tires, tires. All-season tires work (but have their air pressure and treadwear rating checked) but nothing beats a good set of snow tires. or “snowies”.
2. Check your car’s. ahem, “fluids”. Break fluid, windshield washer fluid (for clearing ice of of your windshield) and antifreeze.
3. Check your battery for any corrosions or leaks–this is something that should be done regardless of the season.

Road safety

1. if you feel your wheels “locking” (skidding), DO NOT stand on the brakes, but “pump” them (repeatedly pushing/releasing the pedal).
2. If you feel the tail-end of the car start to slide, your best best is to turn the wheel in the opposite direction and apply throttle. This will either correct the slide or bring the tail all the way around and stop the car.
3.if you have a rear-wheel drive car, put some heavy items in the trunk to add traction.
4. common sense; before embarking on any journey, listen for traffic reports (CP24 and 680 News have regular updates) that talk of black ice reports, accidents and congestion.

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