Myth-busting winter driving wives’ tales
The snow and freezing temperatures are here and that means drivers have to switch gears and adjust for winter conditions.
There’s a lot that goes into preparing your car for the frozen future, but there are also some myths that might do more harm than good.
Myth 1: You should heat your car for at least ten minutes
This may have been the case once upon a time, but today’s engines have come a long way from years past.
“In this day and age, vehicles with aluminum engine blocks, they’re not going to get into that hot temperature until you start driving it. Letting your vehicle idle…it’s probably not going to get that warm just idling and you’re just burning more fuel,” Geoff Wiebe, regional sales manager at Kal Tire in Regina, said.
“A couple minutes is really all you need, even on those really cold days, five minutes max. That’s all you need to get it really warmed up.”
Myth 2: Hot water can clear your windshield
Scraping off a thick layer of ice and snow can be the bane of Saskatchewan winters, but using hot water to melt it is not the solution.
“Pouring hot water on your windshield is going to cause potential large problems like cracking,” Wiebe said.
“Applying warm air to the windshield is going to change the temperature a lot slower and be easier on the components and the glass. If you dump water on it you’re just asking for trouble.”
Myth 3: All-Season tires are fine for winter
When it comes to spending hundreds on a set of winter tires, not all Canadians are convinced, but Wiebe said sticking with all-season tires would be a mistake.
“For our weather conditions, all season will not work when it gets below seven degrees Celsius [average daily temperature]. You need to go with an all-weather tire or a dedicated winter tire; something with that three-peak mountain emblem with a snowflake on the sidewall,” Wiebe said.
Myth 4: Put anti-freeze in your brake lines to avoid them freezing up
There are bad ideas, and there are really bad ideas – according to Wiebe, this is the latter.
“It’s two completely independent systems on your car, brake fluid will never freeze. It’s designed to stay pliable and stay viscous at the super cold temperatures. Certainly putting anti-freeze in is not going to help you,” Wiebe said.
Myth 5: Four-wheel drive helps you brake
Four-wheel drive can be essential in a snowy winter, particularly in rural locations or residential streets that aren’t plowed as often. But as much help as it offers, it only works in one direction.
“Four-wheel drive certainly helps in getting through [bad weather], however, the big misconception is that it helps you to stop. It doesn’t. Stopping’s the same whether in two-wheel or four-wheel drive,” Dale Johnson, an award-winning automotive journalist, said.
“Whatever you would normally allow for braking, start by allowing two to three times the distance and that way you’re not going to slide into people.”
Johnson also cautioned against using the emergency brake or the parking brake to help stop during winter. Doing so could interfere with the anti-lock braking system and worsen the situation.
READ MORE: Tips on tires for winter driving conditions
Behind those myths are some truths.
Pouring hot water on your windshield may be a bad idea, but ensuring clear visibility is important.
“Remove all ice and snow, make sure that you’re [not] driving with reduced visibility and, because the days are getting shorter, make sure you’re not a phantom vehicle. Make sure your headlights and taillights are on and that you’re seen by all drivers,” Christine Niemczyk, communications director for CAA Saskatchewan, said.
The same goes for brake fluid. You shouldn’t tamper with it, but checking it isn’t a bad idea.
“Check your vehicle. Everything from the brakes, the fluids…check to make sure you have a full tank of fuel when you’re driving, or at minimum a half tank,” Niemczyk said.
The final piece of advice she offered was to carry a safety kit.
“Add some battery booster cables, you can add some non-perishable food items, this time of year we also recommend that you throw in some extra clothing,” Niemczyk said.
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