Winter is coming; how do I prepare my car? Unlike bears, people can’t just curl up in their den and sleep the rough weather away. Well, most people anyway. We have jobs to get to, people to see, things to do, places to go. To do this most of us use a car or truck. In winter that trusty conveyance of yours faces some extra challenges. It’s time to get your car or truck ready. Here is a checklist of things you want to do (or have your mechanic do) to prepare your vehicle.


Since Ontario salts its road like McDonald’s fries, if your car has not been rustproofed, have it done. If it has been done, have it checked to be sure none has come loose.


The antifreeze in your cooling system must be mixed to protect your engine in all temperatures your region is likely to encounter. Around here you need protection to -40° C. Test the coolant to see that it is sufficient. Every few years you want to have the radiator back-flushed and new coolant installed. This keeps the radiator free of clogs and operating at it’s best. Consult your owner’s manual or dealership regarding the frequency.


If you run a heavier weight oil in summer time, such as 10w40, you will want to switch to 5w30 for winter time. You may also want to consider a synthetic. Do this at a regular oil change, and discuss it with your dealer mechanic to see what is best for your model’s engine.


With our epic snowfalls, proper snow tires are a must. If you have snow tires, have them mounted and balanced now. If not, buy a set and have your summer tires safely stored.

Studded Tires

In Ontario, light-duty studded tires are legal for residents living anywhere north of or within the Parry Sound and Nipissing Districts. If you live in these districts, you may legally drive with studded tires anywhere in Ontario between Oct. 1 and April 30. Out-of-province residents may drive with studded tires anywhere in Ontario for up to 30 days. Southern Ontarians may not use them at all and risk a fine that stood at $1,000 CAD as of October 2010. Use only legal studs and carry proof of address at all times while you drive with them.

Tire Chains or Cleats

Tire chains are illegal on Ontario’s public roads. However, the Highway Traffic Act does not apply to private property. You may use snow chains, for example, on back-country routes or farm access roads. Do not attempt to drive on a highway with them, as you risk large fines.

Removable chains or cleats can be used for emergency extrication and deep snow. Wrap the chains around your tires or install cleats when driving on very snowy stretches. You will need to stop and remove them when you come to bare pavement.


The rubber parts of your engine will become stiff and brittle in severe cold, check them now to be sure they are in good shape. If they are questionable, replace them now.


During intense cold it is helpful us use a block heater to keep the engine block from getting SO cold. But having a block heater does no good if it’s not working. If you have a multi-meter, use it to check the resistance through the block heater. Be sure to install the removable wire harness and test that too. As long as power does flow and you are getting the proper resistance reading, it will serve you this winter.


You will be walking through snow and along walkways and parking lots that have been treated with ice melt of cinders. To keep this gunk from damaging your carpeting, install heavy rubber floor mats. The ones with a lip around the edges also contain the snow melt (to some degree, anyway) to further protect your carpeting.


Naturally you will want to be sure your car’s jack, handle, and tools are in place and working. Also keep a good flashlight, a blanket, some snack bars, and flares on hand in case you get stuck.