Safe Motoring Tips for the Driver in Canadian Winters

Did you know? - Contrary to popular belief, idling your engine is not an affective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. According to Natural Resources Canada, the best way to warm up your engine is to drive it. In fact, with today's engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before you start to drive.

Did you know? - Should your vehicle be stuck in snow:

  • Turn you wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way. Touch the gas pedal lightly, and ease forward. Don't spin your wheels, as this will only dig you deeper into the snow.
  • Alternatively, rock your vehicle. (Check your owner's manual first, as rocking can damage the transmission on some vehichles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you're in gear, give a light touch on the gas until your vehicle is in motion again.

Did you know? - In a rear-wheel drive vehiclce, you can usually feel a loss of traction on the beginning of a skid. There may be no such warning in a front-wheel drive, however. Front-wheel drives do handle better in ice and snow, but they do not have flawless traction, and skids can occur unexpectedly. Don't let the better feel and handling of a front-wheel drive car cause you to drive faster than you should.

Did you know? - The braking technique you use depends on the type of braking system your vehicle has. With an anti-lock brake system (ABS), you should never pump the brakes. The ABS is designed to stop the wheels from locking in an emergency. The best thing to do is apply steady and constant pressure. Do not take your foot off the brake pedal until the vehicle has stopped. As the ABS engages, you may feel the brake pedal pulsating. This is normal and is caused by the system applying and releasing the necessary pressure to the brakes.

With a traditional braking system, the most efficient technique to use is threshold braking. This method, in addtion to either de-clutching if you have a manual shift transmission, or shifting to neutral if you have an automatic transmission, will allow you to slow down gradually and aviod locking the wheels. This will help reduce your stopping distance and help keep the vehicle under control. You should keep your heel rested on the floor and gradually apply firm, steady pressure to the brake pedal with your toes without locking the wheels and causing them to stop turning. In the event you do lock the wheels, release brake pedal pressure until the wheels begin revolving again, then immediately reapply a bit less pedal pressure to maintain braking action.

Optionally, with a traditional braking system, you can pump your brakes very quickly while turning the steering wheel. By pumping, you are maintaining control of your vehicle. When you pump your brakes neither too quickly nor too slowly, you will, in essence, achieve the same effect as if you had ABS.

CAA is the federation of 11 CAA automobile clubs across Canada, serving over 4.4 million Members through 140 offices and affiliations in 95 countries. CAA provides a wide range of Member services and works to improve travelling and motoring conditions. CAA (Maritimes) serves CAA Members across Atlantic Canada from six branch locations in Fredericton, Saint John, Moncton, Halifax, Dartmouth and Charlottetown.