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How to prepare for a safe winter road trip

Exploring Canada by road doesn’t have to be limited to the warmer months. Perhaps you can’t drive with the top down, but you can make lasting memories. Winter road trips offer breathtaking scenery, but road conditions can be less than perfect, so winter driving requires special attention. The National Collision Database reported that 30 percent of collisions happen on wet, snowy, or icy roads, one-third of which occur in November, December, January, and February1. So, whether you’re driving up to the cottage for a cozy weekend away or visiting family or friends who live in another city or province, keep these tips in mind:

By now your winter tires should be installed
As the temperature drops, all-season and summer tires can stiffen and lose their elasticity, leading to decreased traction and poor performance. On the other hand, the rubber used in winter tires is designed to stay flexible even in extremely chilly weather, so you’ll get a better grip on a slippery street. If you haven’t installed your winter tires, do so before hitting the road.

Check your vehicle’s fluids
If you’re almost due for an oil change, plan to have it done before you head out. While you’re at it, have your brake fluid, transmission fluid, coolant, and power-steering fluid checked, too.

Top up your windshield washer fluid
Choose a windshield washer fluid with a de-icing formula, and keep an extra bottle in your trunk. Regular windshield washer fluid can freeze in its tank or when you spray it onto your windshield on a cold day. Windshield washer fluids formulated explicitly for winter weather usually include higher concentrations of methyl alcohol, giving them a lower freezing point so they won’t freeze in your tank or cause dangerous refreeze in cold conditions. They can also melt thin layers of ice in temperatures as low as -49 °C.

Replace your worn-out wiper blades
If you notice that some areas of your windshield stay wet after being wiped when it’s raining or snowing, it’s probably time to replace your wiper blades. You’ll want them working well, especially if you’re driving in unfamiliar territory. Even if your wipers are in decent condition, you could consider swapping them with heavier, winter-specific ones that will wipe away ice and snow more efficiently.

Assemble your emergency kit
If you don’t already have a well-stocked emergency kit in your vehicle, pack these ten essential items before leaving for a trip where you’ll be on the road for an extended period.

Keep your gas tank at least half full
If you have to pull over and sit for a while to wait out a whiteout (or if you're driving in an unfamiliar area and can't find a gas station), the last thing you want to worry about is hitting empty and getting stranded in the cold.

Make sure your auto insurance is up to date
If it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed your auto insurance policy, reach out to your broker to double-check that you have the coverage you need for your trip – and keep your broker’s phone number on hand in case you need to make a claim while you’re away. If you’re planning to rent a vehicle, ensure your auto insurance policy includes OPCF 27, which will cover you if there is damage to the vehicle that you don’t own. It is only valid for driving in Canada and the United States. If your auto insurance policy does not include OPCF 27, you may want to consider adding it.

If you have questions about your existing auto insurance coverage, call 1-833-494-0089 to speak with an OTIP broker. If you are shopping for auto insurance, call 1-833-615-9326 to get a free quote.

  1. Royal Canadian Mounted Police

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