Winter Driving in Canada: What Everyone Should Know

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A Brief History

This date in history has always marked the beginnings of winter in Canada, and what a special time that is. The skies become cloudy and the weather gets cold, and you take out those fancy coats and jackets to enjoy the beautiful weather. While winter in Canada is indeed wonderful, it can also be perilous, especially when it comes to driving. It is never easy to navigate your vehicle on slippery roads, and you need to know how to handle yourself and the car when it is snowing because it can also get a bit overwhelming. 

These are the things you need to know when driving in winter in Canada. 

Digging Deeper

The tires

In case you did not know it, temperatures can get really low in Canada in the winter months, and that is never good for your regular tires. This is why all provinces recommend switching to winter tires –– it is even compulsory in some provinces. Those ones have bigger tread and allow you to control your car much better, as opposed to your regular tires that become rigid in low temperatures and can be difficult to control. And always remember, regardless of the season, check on the tire pressure. 

Checking the windshield washer fluid

It is a really bad idea to get in your car with little windshield washer fluid, because driving in low temperatures will quickly cause the windshield to become dirty and it can be really hard to see through it, which is obviously not good. You will be using your wipers a lot, so you need enough fluid to keep cleaning the windshield regularly on the road for good visibility. It can be quite dangerous to run out of the fluid on the road, and this is why it is advisable that you keep some extra gallons around just in case. 

Get car insurance 

Generally speaking, it is always a good idea to get car insurance wherever and whenever you are driving. It gives you the necessary security and reassurance of knowing that your vehicle can be repaired without costing you a fortune, if the worst should happen. As explained on MyChoice.ca, the insurance rates will vary depending on what province you are in as well as several other factors. And even within the same city you will find varying rates. This is why you need to do a little research to shop around for the best offer possible. 

Plan ahead

As mentioned earlier, the weather can get really bad during winter in Canada, and this is why you should plan ahead. Always check the forecast before you get into your car, and choose your route before leaving the house –– try going for ones that do not have many slopes or risky turns if the weather is bad.

Get a plug heater

People who are visiting Canada for the first time will be surprised to know that you actually need to plug in your car to a heater in winter. This is mainly because the temperatures drop so much that it can damage your car engine if you tried starting it without plugging in a heater. The oil will become thick and will not be able to properly flow through the engine, which will cause friction between its internal parts and possibly damage it. So, this needs to become a part of your daily routine in those months when it is freezing. 

Be prepared 

As the saying goes, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. You need to always have a special kit on you for the winter months in Canada. It should include gloves, water bottles, packaged foods, booster cable, shovel, first aid kit, and anything else that you might need should your car break down on a snowy road. 

Drive safely

This is generally a good idea any time of the year, but it is even more important during winter. The roads can get really slippery, and it is easy to lose control over your car, even if you have winter tires. Sometimes, you will look ahead and see that the road is clear and ice-free, but that is now always the case. Black ice is a thin layer that is almost invisible to a person driving their car, and it might be lurking there. So, you need to be really careful because going at high speeds on such a layer of ice is fatal. 

It is a good idea to exercise caution whenever possible when driving in Canada during winter. If you can think of a worst case scenario, then it might happen, and you need to be prepared for it. Take all factors into consideration and always be prepared; it might just save your life. 

Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever driven in Canada during the winter? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Ernst, Chloe.  Scenic Driving Atlantic Canada: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland & Labrador.  GPP Travel, 2011.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by BriYYZ from Toronto, Canada of driving behind the plow in Saskatchewan (February), is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.  This image, originally posted to Flickr, was reviewed on  by the administrator or reviewer File Upload Bot (Magnus Manske), who confirmed that it was available on Flickr under the stated license on that date.

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Abdul Alhazred

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland