Emily Chung: Mummy Mechanic


Winter Driving: 5 Things You Need to Do to Stay Safe

Visibility is key when it comes to keeping your family safe on the road

Winter Driving: 5 Things You Need to Do to Stay Safe

It’s that time of year again! The time of year when it gets dark earlier and the temperature drops. Because of these things, we also begin to encounter challenging driving situations. Many think that as long as they have winter tires, they'll be fine. But safe winter driving goes well beyond just having winter tires—it also has a lot to do with visibility. Here are five safety tips I share with my clients to help their winter driving visibility.

    1. Beware of Cloudy Headlamps

    Have a look at your vehicle's headlamps to see what condition they're in. New headlamps have a clear coat to protect the lens but with age, the lenses often become yellow or cloudy-looking. This is a result of exposure to UV rays, dirt, and debris. Some car washes also strip the clear coat if they have abrasive bristles. An older headlamp can look like this:

    If your headlamps are cloudy, they will not be able to illuminate the road well and you won’t be able to see clearly. It’s not a big job to restore your headlamps, your local auto repair shop will be able to do it easily or you can try a do-it-yourself restoration kit.

    2. Replace Headlamp Bulbs with Premium Bulbs

    A quick way to increase your visibility this winter season is by replacing your regular headlight bulbs with premium bulbs. Many drivers only replace bulbs when they burn out but don’t realize that headlights dim as much as 20% every two years. There are many options for automotive headlights and the better ones will increase your ability to see not only down the road but also increase your peripheral view.

    As part of my winter prep, I installed Sylvania’s SilverStar Ultra Bulbs onto my husband’s car.

    It has a whiter light (our old bulbs displayed a bit of a yellow tint) so it’s easier to see contrasts, especially at night.  

    Sylvania’s SilverStar Ultra Bulbs can be found at Canadian Tire, see below for a special offer!

    3. Test Your Headlight's Aim

    Did you know that verifying your vehicle’s headlight aim is part of a safety inspection in Ontario? This is likely the case in other provinces too. Most manufacturers recommend regular inspection because if your vehicle’s headlights aren’t properly aimed at the road, it will be difficult for you to see while driving at night and it can potentially blind other drivers in oncoming traffic.

    To test, the next time you’re driving at night, take a look at your headlight aim. Is it aiming straight? Or does one light point one way, while the other points another way? Is one lens pointing straight ahead while the other is pointing more towards the road? You can usually tell if the aim is off when one side of the road seems more illuminated than the other.

    If you suspect that your headlights are out of alignment, do yourself and other drivers a favour—get them straightened out. This is especially important when driving during winter storms so visibility is the best it can be.

    4. Clear Snow from Your Car the Proper Way

    If you watch people clearing snow off of their vehicles, it’s like they're in a race to get it done quickly and they don't end up doing the best job. And I totally get it—it’s freezing outside! Many drivers just clear the snow off the windshield but leave snow everywhere else. When the snow starts to fly, it’s important that you clear off all the snow, including what’s on your roof. This will help with your visibility as well as those around you. The driver following behind you will appreciate not having snow blown onto their windshield! And never clear the snow off your windshield with your wiper blades. You’ll risk damaging the blades and possibly the wiper motor.

      Snow Clearing Tips

    • Clear the snow along the top and side edges of your door before you open it. This will minimize the amount of snow that gets into the vehicle and lands on your seat.
    • I keep two snowbrushes in my car. One for me and one for my kids. The kids have fun clearing the snow off and the job gets done faster!

    5. Keep a Spare Jug of Windshield Washer Fluid In the Trunk

    Have you ever run out of washer fluid while driving in cold weather? It’s not fun. The windshield turns white in the dry, cold weather and pretty soon it’s hard to see properly which is not safe. I've heard of people opening their windows and throwing water on the windshield (which doesn’t work well since water freezes pretty quickly in sub-zero temperatures) or they’ll drive close to the vehicle in front of them to hopefully catch some wet snow spinning up onto their windshield. Both methods are subject to eyebrow raises and definitely not safe or ideal. During the winter, keep an extra jug of washer fluid in your trunk. It’s an inexpensive purchase and helps tremendously in keeping your windshield clean and clear.

      Washer Fluid Top-Up Tip

    • When pouring washer fluid, hold the jug flat on its side. This way, it’s easier to manage pouring the fluid straight into the washer reservoir and the fluid won’t slosh everywhere.

    Keep these tips in mind as you’re preparing your vehicle for the upcoming great Canadian winter. Wishing you safe travels!