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Prepare young drivers for safe winter travel

Many young drivers will venture onto the roads this winter season, some for the first time. In fact, there are almost 3 million drivers in Canada between the ages of 16 and 24.2 That's why it's important for parents to prepare teenagers and young drivers for the difficult winter months, by making sure their vehicles are properly maintained and they've been given helpful instructions and well-stocked emergency kits.

First and foremost, have their vehicles checked thoroughly. Belts, hoses, water pumps, batteries and spark plugs need to be properly maintained. Winter tends to magnify any problems a vehicle might have. One simple routine that helps maintain fuel efficiency and engine performance is spark plug maintenance. "Too many people underestimate the power and importance of a spark plug, but it's exposed to more severe stress than any other part of the engine," says Peg Campbelton, Brand Manager for Autolite.

A spark plug must deliver a high voltage spark within split second timing, thousands of times a minute and under extremely varying, always hostile, operating conditions. Campbelton suggests having the vehicle's spark plugs changed every 48,000 kilometers, or in accordance with the owner's manual. Using premium, platinum-tipped plugs, such as Autolite® Double Platinum spark plugs, is also a good idea.

Once a thorough under-the-hood inspection is complete, make sure your new driver checks their tire tread and windshield wipers as well as fluid levels like washer solvent and antifreeze/ coolant. Many motorists are under the impression that antifreeze/coolant is only needed in the warmer season to avoid overheating, but the proper mixture is necessary to avoid engine freeze-ups in frigid temperatures. A recommended concentration of 50% Prestone solution protects your vehicle down to –36.8C. Prestone antifreeze can be adjusted to give protection down to –64.4C if it is required.

Windshield wipers and washer fluid are also vital. It's a good idea to switch to a winter wiper blade. They are more durable and designed to handle the snow and ice better than a regular blade. If wipers aren't working properly or if there's a lack of fluid in the reservoir, the combination of salt, ice and sleet may reduce the driver's ability to see other vehicles or objects in the road. Use a concentrated washer fluid additive designed specifically for cold weather driving, such as Prestone‚ Windshield Heat' De-Icer Concentrate Additive. Unlike many "blue" washer fluids that aren't as effective in extreme cold, this concentrated deicer melts frost and light ice and boosts the freeze protection of your regular washer fluid. It also guards against re-freeze on windshields. "For those who park outside, a concentrated windshield washer additive with a deicer product makes a lot of sense for those early morning drives to school in the late fall and into the winter months," states Megan Currie, Prestone Brand Manager.

Remind new drivers to turn on their headlights any time they use their windshield wipers. It will help improve visibility and allow them to be seen better by other drivers. Emphasize the importance of clearing off the entire car, not just a portion. If the entire vehicle hasn't been cleared properly, it creates hazardous situations for your child when they are driving, and for other motorists on the road. It is also a good safety precaution to keep more than a half tank of gas in the vehicle during the cold weather season. It'll be the only source of heat if somebody is stranded.

Although these preventative maintenance tips do help, they by no means serve as a complete deterrent to potential problems. Prepare for a roadside emergency with a special winter kit that includes:

  • A cell phone – for calling you in case of emergency
  • A portable jump starter – in case of a dead battery, they won't be stranded alone in the cold
  • A flashlight and extra batteries
  • Emergency flares – so other motorists can see their vehicle
  • Sand bags – highly recommended for vehicles with rear-wheel drive
  • A tire inflator and sealer
  • Warm clothes and blankets
  • Extra de-icer washer fluid and a spray de-icer
  • Ice scraper with a snow brush
  • Tire traction product
  • Shovel

Even though young people today are always on the go, emphasize the significance of these safety tips. It may change what could be a disastrous situation into a simple inconvenience.

2 Source: Statistics Canada, Transportation Division 2000

- News Canada