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Winter is in full force, which means icky winter driving is also in effect. Every year there are countless accidents, collisions, and break-downs caused by unsafe driving in snowy and slippery conditions. 

It’s a problem — but how do we solve it? Hibernate all winter and never leave the house, let alone drive, you say? That sounds cozy. But if you do find yourself getting behind the wheel, we’ve put together our top winter driving tips to help you stay safe, while debunking a few myths along the way.

1. Maintain your car battery

When temperatures reach -20 to -30, power can drain from your car battery fast. To help avoid drainage and reduce the stress on your battery, get into the habit of turning off your vehicle’s lights, radio, and heat before shutting off the engine. When you start your car in the morning, there will be immediate less demand on your battery, and your ears will be greeted with the confident vroom-vroom of a fully-started vehicle.

Myth busted: A dead battery isn’t the only cause of starting issues. When the temperature drops there are a lot of factors that can affect what’s happening underneath the hood of your car, like frozen cooling systems or fuel issues.

2. Get winter tires

Lots of people don’t realize the value of having winter tires, so they decide to go without. While all-season tires are great for most of the year, they don’t have the traction for driving on ice and snow. Winter tires, on the other hand, have specially-designed rubber and treading that withstands cold, snow, and ice, which gives you a lot more control on the road. 

Myth busted: Winter tires aren’t only good for driving in snowy and icy conditions. If you’re driving in temperatures below seven degrees (Celsius), winter tires will outperform standard all-season tires.

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3. Keep your gas tank full

There’s no greater feeling of panic and worry than being stuck in traffic, in horrible weather, with your fuel gauge teetering on empty. Keeping your tank above the halfway mark is an easy way to help keep yourself out of trouble in poor driving conditions. If you break down in the middle of a snowstorm and have to wait for help, having enough gas in your tank will allow you to idle your car and stay warm until it arrives.

Myth busted: Back in the day, it was possible for condensation to form and freeze inside a car’s gas tank during the winter, leading to the belief that a tank should always be more than half-full. With today’s ethanol-based gas and improved fuel injection systems, this is now very unlikely to happen. Still, you should always have plenty of gas in your car for safety reasons!

4. Warm your vehicle up, but don’t overdo it

The best way to warm up your vehicle in the winter is to drive it! Most drivers like the comfort of letting their vehicle idle for a long time before driving it. We get it — being cold sucks! But if you’re idling for more than 10-20 seconds (when not in traffic) it’s best to shut off your engine to save on gas.

Every 10 minutes of idling can cost between a tenth and a third of a litre of gas. It adds up fast, and your bank account will be very upset with you.

Myth busted: Many drivers don’t realize that your car only needs a minute or so to get the fluids running through the system, even in very cold temperatures. Leaving it for longer doesn’t do anything but waste your gas.

5. Check your tire pressure regularly

Tire pressure decreases as temperatures fall. As such, you’ll want to ensure your tires are maintained regularly through the winter — ideally once a month. You can use a tire pressure gauge to identify whenever they need a top-up. Keeping your tires properly inflated will give you better control on the road in cold and slippery conditions.

Myth busted: Somewhere along the line, people got a crazy notion that reducing your tire pressure gives you better traction. The opposite is true, in fact. It only serves to make your drive less safe. Best practice is to keep your tires set correctly to the pressure dictated in your vehicle manual. 

Have any driving tips to add? Sound off @OnliaCa #OnliaCA

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