Preparing Your Vehicle for Safe Winter Driving

car at mechanics

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With the snow in the air, it’s not too late to get your car at it’s best for the tougher driving conditions that winter brings. Here is a simple list* that any reputable garage or mechanic can help you with to make sure you are at your safest when on the winter roads:

Brakes – Your brakes should always be equalised so there is no pulling to one side. If the brakes on your car are uneven, you may be more likely to skid on snow-covered or icy roads.

Cooling system – Every few years, you should have your cooling system flushed out with a chemical cleaner and replaced with fresh anti-freeze. Check your containers, belts, hoses, the pressure caps and thermostat.

Battery and electrical system – Cold weather is very hard on batteries, so have yours checked. Be sure that the connections are always clean and tight and that there is no corrosion around the connectors.

Fuel System – Make sure there is plenty of gas in your tank at all times. A full tank minimizes condensation, which may cause gas line freezing. Add gasoline antifreeze occasionally.

Engine – A diagnostic check-up of the engine can be a good pre-winter ritual. At your next scheduled tune-up, have it done. Faulty wiring, worn spark plugs, a sticking choke or emission control devices that need attention, can all cause problems when starting your car.

Exhaust system – Check your muffler and tail pipe system for carbon monoxide leaks. This is especially important in the winter when the windows of your car are almost always closed.

Heaters, defrosters and wipers – Have your car’s windshield, heaters, defrosters and wipers checked to make sure they are fully operational. Install new winter wiper blades and use properly rated, winter washer fluid. Ensure your windshield always gives you a clear vision of the road and traffic around you.

Oil and filter – Dirty oil can mean trouble in the winter, so change the oil and filter before the cold weather starts. Other filters need your attention too – your fuel, air and transmission filters should all be attended to as well.

Tires – Snow tires increase traction in soft snow. Make sure to install them on all four wheels, as it will mean greater control of your vehicle when accelerating and braking, and don’t forget to check your tire pressure regularly. Properly inflated tires are crucial to safe winter driving.

 

Take time to take care.

Ron Lapointe
Registered Broker

 

* Some information for this checklist supplied by the Canada Safety Council.

Help Prevent Car Theft

dog in car

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Make it tougher to steal your car.

You can never guarantee your vehicle will not be stolen, but you can take a few easy steps to prevent the likelihood of it happening. Try to make it as difficult as possible for thieves to steal your vehicle and its contents.

  • Always lock your vehicle, no matter how long you’re away from it.
  • Never leave your keys in the vehicle
  • Avoid parking on the street when there are safer locations.
  • Turn off your ignition whenever you leave your car
  • Conceal items left in your car; keep things in the trunk. Never leave money, cd’s, mp3 players, etc., in the open
  • Whenever possible, park your vehicle in a well-lit, well-guarded, highly visible area.
  • Ask your neighbours to watch out for your vehicle and do the same for them
  • Install an anti-theft deterrent such as car alarms or an ignition disabler.

By simply following these tips, you’ll make your vehicle far less of a target to thieves.

 

Take time to take care.

Ron Lapointe
Registered Broker

* Information for this checklist supplied by the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario

 

Driving tips for safe summer trips.

Road Safety for your family vehicle

Summer is almost here and that means the roads will start to get busier with excited drivers on their way to the lake, the cottage, or maybe their annual summer getaway. Although driving conditions are far safer in the summer months, more fatalities occur on Canadian roads during the summer than at any other time of year, including the winter holiday season. Alcohol, fatigue and aggressive driving are often the culprits in these tragedies. The following is a common-sense list of suggestions to help keep your summer on the roads a safe one.

Prepare your vehicle

Before leaving on vacation, have your vehicle checked to make sure everything is working properly. Repair or replace worn parts to avoid the worry and time-consuming costly repairs that could ruin your trip. Check fluid levels and tire pressure. Make sure all lights work, including signal lights. 

Keep your passengers safe

Make sure everyone in your vehicle is buckled up properly at all times. Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to keep yourself and your passengers safe while on the road.

If you are traveling with young children, make sure to make regular stops. Bring plenty of items to keep them occupied. Special travel games and songs also help. This will also help minimize the distraction of unhappy children in the back seat. 

Drive defensively

Drive at a safe speed. Speeding increases the likelihood and severity of a crash. The faster a vehicle is moving, the less time the driver has to react to a hazard, and for other road users to react to that vehicle. A speeding vehicle requires more time and distance to stop. Leave plenty of distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead. Apply the three-second rule so you can see around the car ahead and plan a maneuver to avoid potential dangers, add more time if you have a heavier vehicle, and in poor weather conditions.

The Canada Safety Council estimates that 85 per cent of collisions are preventable. But simply being in the right will not save you from injury or death. You must be prepared for the unsafe actions of other motorists or for poor driving conditions. 

Obey all signs and signals, including speed limits, traffic lights, stop signs and railway crossings.

Those signs are not posted to be nice decorations for you to look at to help pass the time, and they’re not just for the other drivers on the road. 

Absolutely NEVER drink and drive.  Enough said.

Stay alert

Canadians often travel long distances when they go on vacation. This creates a temptation to keep driving for extended periods even when tired. On top of this, routes can be quite monotonous, another factor that can make a driver sleepy. Get a good sleep before leaving on a long trip. Fatigue is a form of impairment; so don’t give in to that temptation to push on. If you started early, stop early. Rest stops are important. A break keeps the driver alert by promoting blood circulation, makes the trip more pleasant for passengers and lets the vehicle cool down.

Carrying a heavy load or towing a trailer

Before you tow a trailer or haul a load, make sure your vehicle is properly equipped for the job. Check your owner’s manual or if in doubt contact your vehicle dealer. Check that your rear view mirrors give a clear view of the road behind. Driving a heavily loaded car or towing a trailer means you need more space to stop or pass.

Leave plenty of distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead.

Keep your distance – at least three seconds for each six metres (20 ft.) of vehicle length. For conditions that are less than ideal, increase the following distance. If cars cut in front of you, drop back to keep your separation. When traveling slower than the flow of traffic, be courteous. Pull over where possible to let faster vehicles pass.

Share the road

With the warmer weather, comes the prevalence of vulnerable roads users. Motorists must be cautious of cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Always be on the lookout for and yield to vulnerable road users, even if they don’t have the right-of-way. Summer also brings increased construction on our roads and highways. Be prepared to stop or slow down in construction zones. 

 

Take time to take care.

Ron Lapointe
Registered Broker

Some information for this blog entry supplied by Canada Safety Council

Driving in cold weather

woman using ice scraper on car windshield

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So here’s the scenario: You’re laying in your nice, warm bed when your radio alarm clock wakes you up with another weather forecast filled with freezing temperatures and more snow expected. In a perfect world, you turn the alarm off, close your eyes and forget everything you just heard because you aren’t going anywhere today.   But most of us live in the world where you have to get up, scrape your windows, jump in your vehicle and face the elements, so here’s a small checklist for your vehicle to help keep you safe when the weather turns bad.

A winter checklist for your vehicle

The following items should cover most situations:

  • windshield scraper and snow brush;
  • lightweight shovel;
  • bag of sand, wire traction mat or other abrasive substance;
  • large box of facial tissues;
  • properly inflated spare tire;
  • wheel wrench and jack;
  • first aid kit;
  • flashlight;
  • flares;
  • battery jumper cables.

For long distance travel take extra precautions: bring a blanket, candles, lighter or matches, emergency rations, lined winter boots, hat and other warm clothes, and small heating cans.

It only takes a few dollars and very little time to make sure your car is fully prepared and equipped for harsh, winter conditions. It’s worth the effort.

 

Take time to take care.

Ron Lapointe
Registered Broker

 

* Some information for this checklist supplied by the Canada Safety Council.

 

Winter is Coming – Don’t forget: Your car is not a Sherman Tank!

Be prepared - winter driving

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Clean off Your Car in Winter

How often have you been driving down the highway in the winter when you approach a car in front of you that is hurtling down the road resembling a giant white tank? Let me paint this picture a little clearer for you. The ‘car’ in front of you has so much snow left on it that the wind is firing frozen missiles from it’s roof at you that come crashing down on your windshield, making for some pretty anxious moments.

After a few kilometers following this nitwit, you cautiously take your opportunity to pass them to get out of the barrage of ice and snow only to discover that all of their windows are covered in snow except for a tiny credit card sized hole that they’ve scraped off of their windshield with what looks like their finger nails.

This driver is a huge liability on the road as they can’t see you, and because of all the flying snow, you have a hard time seeing them.  They could also be subject to a sizeable fine* for their carelessness in making sure that they are operating a safe vehicle, especially in adverse conditions.

Winter driving is stressful enough at the best of times, so how can you make sure that you are not the one driving the Sherman Tank?

Clear ALL snow and ice off your vehicle before getting behind the wheel. This includes your windows, trunk, hood, roof and sides of the vehicle if necessary. This will make it much easier for others to see your vehicle and avoid you being at fault for flying snow and ice into other vehicles that could cause a serious accident, especially when traveling at highway speeds.

Slow down. Your vehicle is NOT indestructible, and can’t stop on a dime, especially when traveling on snow covered, wet or icy roads, so give yourself extra room between vehicles and drive according to not just the speed limits, but the conditions around you.

– When it’s snowing, use your full nighttime lights even when driving during the daytime. Again, giving people the best chance to see you will help minimize your chances of getting hit by someone else.

Just some simple, common sense tips to help get you safely to where you want to go.

Take time to take care.

Ron Lapointe
Registered Broker

* Ontario Highway Traffic Act: 74.(1) Windows to afford clear view. All your windows must be clean and clear enough so you can see clearly out