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Vehicle Checklist for Winter Road Conditions


Maritime winters often bring heavy snowfall and freezing rain, which can make roads dangerous to navigate. Low visibility and slippery roads sometimes combine to disastrous effect, contributing to motor vehicle collisions that can seriously injure, or even kill. According to a recent report from Transport Canada, over 10,000 collisions were connected to snow, freezing rain, sleet and hail, and limited visibility in just one year. 

A car crash can have severe consequences for drivers and passengers alike. Whiplash, injuries to internal organs, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord damage are just some of the possible injuries a person might suffer. There are an average of 80 deaths and 636 hospitalizations due to car collisions in Nova Scotia each year, and the lasting effects of injuries or the deaths of loved ones may continue for years.  

Even with the most rigorous preparation for the winter weather, you cannot control other drivers’ negligent behaviour. If you or someone you love have suffered as a result of a motor vehicle collision, our car accident lawyers may be able to help you understand your legal rights. Contact us to book a consultation today.  

As a driver, you can take some important steps to lower your risks on snowy and icy roads, and prepare for treacherous winter driving. In addition to taking precautions such as slowing down and paying attention to changing weather conditions, there are steps you can take to keep your vehicle in winter-ready condition. 

1. Invest in Good Winter Tires 

While not mandatory in Nova Scotia, winter tires are built to handle the slippery conditions of snowy and icy roads. Recommended by the RCMP, winter tires provide extra traction and decrease your brake distance. It should be noted that winter tires are not the same as “all season tires.”  

Make sure to check your tires regularly, but especially before embarking on long journeys. You will want them to have at least 50% tread and to be properly inflated. Keep in mind that air density is different depending on the temperature. What may be fully inflated in your warm garage will not be the same out on winter roads. A good rule of thumb may be to check their pressure while the tires are cold. 

2. Keep Your Battery Charged 

Your motor needs a fully charged battery in order to start in the winter. Checking the charging system and belts regularly can help keep the system in good order. The general recommendation is to consult with a trained professional for regular battery tests in the colder seasons. A mechanic may be able to catch problems early and replace batteries well before they become problematic. 

3. Make Sure Your Lights Work 

It gets dark early in wintertime, and weather events such as whiteout conditions can make it especially hard to see. Check that your headlights and taillights are working. Take your vehicle to a mechanic if they are not. 

4. Test Your Brakes 

Regardless of the weather, it is important to keep your brakes in good condition. Pay attention to any changes to the sound or feel of your braking mechanism, including grinding or squealing, and bring any concerns you may have to a certified mechanic. 

5. Monitor Your Exhaust System 

Your car’s exhaust system is vital to pumping harmful gases out of your engine to ensure they do not enter the cabin. Because the system is located on the underside of your car, bumps on the road can sometimes cause damage. The build-up of snow, ice, and road salt can erode the metal. Leaks in your exhaust system might lead to gases such as carbon monoxide entering the vehicle’s interior. 

Monitor changes in how your exhaust system sounds and feels. If you notice new roaring, rattling, hissing, or vibration, this may be a sign of a leak. You can also look at your exhaust system to check for any rust or holes.  

Whether you are stopping for just a little time or find yourself stranded in your vehicle due to winter conditions, check that your tailpipe is clear of ice and snow. This may reduce your chances of exposure to harmful gases.  

6. Keep Your Heating and Cooling System in Good Order 

Driving in the winter might mean your engine goes from being very cold while the car is inactive to very hot after putting keys in the ignition. Using a series of belts, hoses, and antifreeze fluids, your heating and cooling system helps your engine transition efficiently between temperature extremes. It is important to check this system regularly for any cracks or leaks. Inspect your drive belts, radiator hoses, as well as radiator cap, water pump, and thermostat. One way to check for leakage is to see if your car leaves liquid on the ground below its front end. You can also feel for rust on the underside of the radiator.  

Finally, make sure you have enough coolant or antifreeze. Typically, your car will display a coolant light on the dashboard if levels are running low.  

7. Install Winter Windshield Wipers 

The buildup of snow and ice can make it challenging to see while driving, which can increase the risk of accidents. Not only is it important to replace any damaged windshield wipers (including ones that leave streaks as they clean), but you may want to consider buying wipers built to withstand the winter weather conditions. Make sure your winter washer fluid is primed for freezing temperatures. The recommended range is -40°C. You may want to keep a spare jug of the fluid in your trunk, just in case. 

8. Prepare an Emergency Kit 

Adverse winter road conditions sometimes cause cars to become stranded, and it can take hours for rescue vehicles to arrive. To prepare, the government of Nova Scotia recommends drivers pack the following: 

  • Blankets 
  • Matches 
  • A food pack with non-perishable items such as chocolate, nuts, dried fruit 
  • Plastic garbage bags, which may help keep clothing dry 
  • Flashlights and batteries 
  • Extra clothing 
  • Candles or other snow melting material 
  • A flash flag or other reflective or illuminated material that can help emergency personnel see your car 

It can also be helpful to pack items such a shovel to dig through snow, booster cables, water, toilet paper, a fire extinguisher, a mechanical tool kit, and a first aid kit. 

9. Clear Your Vehicle Before Driving 

Just before heading out for your winter drive, make sure all your windows, mirrors, and lights are clear of any ice or snow. Check that the tailpipe is clear. It can be a good idea to start your engine early and allow it some time to warm up, as well as letting your cabin temperature adjust. You may want to wait until the fog on the glass has faded before beginning your journey. 

10. Fill Up on Gas 

Cold weather can lead to your car using up more gas than usual on your drive, which means it is doubly important to make sure you have enough fuel to take your destination. Considering the possibility of a longer journey due to winter road conditions, as well as the risks of becoming stranded, it may be in your best interest to always travel with a full tank. Depending on how far you are going, you may also want to keep a spare container of gas in the trunk for emergency use. 

Call 1-877-572-1324 to speak with our Eastern Canada legal team Book Free Consultation

Contact Our Nova Scotia Car Accident Lawyers Today for a Consultation 

Although preparing your vehicle for winter road conditions may help reduce the risk of an accident, collisions might still occur because of another negligent motorist. Driving in Nova Scotia winters can be dangerous because not all drivers are properly prepared for the weather and might neglect their duties of care to other road-users.  

If you have suffered injuries because of an accident caused by a negligent driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us at Preszler Injury Lawyers to see how our Nova Scotia car accident lawyers might be able to help.

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