Winter Safety and Maintenance 101

It’s winter and we all know what that means – freezing temperatures, snow-covered vehicles, frosted windshields, slow-moving traffic, and misplaced hats and gloves.

If you’re not prepared before you head out in your vehicle, you could jeopardize your own safety and/or damage your vehicle. With a little bit of planning, you can be ready with these easy-to-follow tips:

  • Plug in your vehicle. When temperatures plunge to double-digits below zero, vehicles not plugged in can become difficult to start. Extreme cold weakens vehicle batteries and causes engine fluids to thicken, making the engine even harder to turn over. If you can’t plug in your vehicle, you should start it every two hours to keep the engine block warm.
  • Dress for the weather. This should include warm and comfortable clothing. Later if you need to remove some clothing while driving, stop the vehicle in a safe spot.
  • Leave yourself plenty of time before you head out. Winter weather conditions mean slower speeds and more cautious driving. If you must drive, check weather and road conditions before heading out.
  • Clear your windshield, lights and windows. Make sure you have proper visibility before you head out so you can see and be seen.
  • Keep your gas tank full. Always have a full tank of fuel when leaving the city. You don’t want to run out of gas in an emergency, and a less-than-full tank is at greater risk of condensation which may cause gas-line freezing.
  • Charge your cell phone and keep a charger in your vehicle. Always pull over some place safe to use the phone. If stranded, avoid leaving your vehicle to call for help if possible, to prevent frostbite.
  • Carry a survival kit. Include blankets, non-perishable food, candles, warm boots, extra clothing including a hat and scarf, (the head and neck are major sources of heat loss from the body) and items to increase your visibility (such as road cones).
  • Be careful boosting the battery of another vehicle. Review your company policy and vehicle owner’s manual. An error can cause expensive damage to the boosting vehicle’s onboard computer.
  • Know what to do if you’re stuck. To keep carbon monoxide from getting into your vehicle, make sure the tailpipe is not blocked by snow. If your vehicle is not at risk of being hit by other drivers, stay inside the vehicle so you have shelter and are easier to find. You risk getting lost if you leave your vehicle, or worse, suffer from exposure to the cold.

I am a Fleet Safety Operations Manager with 30 years of experience teaching traffic safety across five provinces, and in four countries. Outside of work, I am an avid traveller, a fervent Flames fan, and a Mustang enthusiast.