76 entries categorized "About Your Car"

The Great Spring Swap-Out!

The days are getting longer. The snow banks have disappeared and you’re tempted to put your snow shovel back in the garage for the season. But would that be tempting fate? Is that one last fierce winter storm just waiting for you to let down your guard… and prematurely swap out your trusty winter tires?

There’s lots of great guidance out there about when to make the changeover from your winter tires to your all-seasons or summer tires, and the general consensus from experts is the old “7 degree Celsius” guideline: make the switch when the average daily temperature looks to be staying above 7 degrees Celsius, in order to maintain the best traction, and preserve the life of your tread.

If only the weather was, well, predictable. It’s a fine balance. It’s a tricky gamble. And every year it’s a little bit different. Get the timing just right and you’re driving into the warmer weather maximizing your tires’ tread and feeling like a genius. Miss the magic window and you’re either wearing out your precious winter rubber on squishy-feeling tires, or caught slip-and-sliding though a late-season blizzard.

Man changing tires

I don’t like guesswork when it comes to my tires: their maintenance is crucial from a safety point of view and also, they’re expensive! I make sure to inspect their condition and pressure at the beginning of each month, and before any road trips. Making the spring swap at the best possible time has become a little bit of a personal obsession. So, beginning in mid-March, I start looking at the longer-range weather forecasts, consulting various sources to determine when that temperature shift will happen. Some forecasters go a little further than others, and will give you their best guess for a couple of weeks ahead (along with predictions based on historical data).

I use my car for a variety of obligations: local errands, visits to family (less local), and regular commutes to the big city a few hours away, and I need know well in advance when I’m going to be without my car for a few hours. Local garages can fill up their slots pretty quickly this time of year, so it’s important to be on top of it and plan ahead. So, I do my research, make my appointment, try not to second-guess myself and hope for the best!

Car going through car wash

Of course, spring is also a fantastic time to schedule my oil change/maintenance along with my tire swap. On those magical years (when the temperature shift aligns with my regular maintenance requirement) it can all happen in one trip to the garage. While I’m at it, I like to clean out the trunk and interior, and treat the car to a little love at my local Petro-Canada car wash. It’s been a tough winter, and it’s been through a lot:-)

How do you decide when to make the tire switch? Do you watch the weather like a hawk, or pick the same date every year? How often do you get it just right? Leave your tips and stories in the comments below!

~ Paul D

Winter Car Maintenance: Keeping Your Car Ready-to-Go in the “Snowbelt”

I lived in Toronto for most of my adult life, until a few years ago when I moved to a smaller city in southern Ontario. I spent my first winter here remarking to my neighbours “Wow, there’s, like, so much SNOW.” My neighbours would just shake their heads at city slicker me and chuckle “Well, yup, this is the snowbelt.” Driving in snowbelt took some adjustment but taking these steps to prepare for the cold, ice, and all that white stuff helps to put my mind a little more at ease when I hit the road in winter.

Close up of car on a snow covered road


After being pushed out of a snowbank by some kind strangers, and driving home though my first whiteout (with very white knuckles), I decided to invest in a set of winter tires. I get my local garage to swap out my “All-Seasons” when it looks like the temperature is going to stay below 7 degrees Celsius. My garage also keeps track of my tire tread for me, and will give me a heads up when it might be time to consider new winter tires (although if you want to keep tabs on your tread yourself, you can try this classic trick, with the helpful caribou on our Canadian quarter.)

I make sure to check my tire pressure (including the spare hiding in the trunk!) before any long trips, and if there has been a wild swing in temperature. I bought myself a digital tire gauge that lights up. It was a little pricier than an old fashioned one, but well worth it for the accuracy and ease in reading it. Less time freezing my fingers!

Wipers and fluid

I’ll check periodically to make sure my wipers aren’t sticking or streaking, and top up my fluid with Petro-Canada’s 4-Season Advanced Non-Smear Windshield Washer Fluid (designed for Canada’s freezing temperatures and winter conditions). On a longer drive with mixed precipitation, I can go through A LOT of it, so I keep some extra in the trunk.

Extra gear

I’ll dig out my scraper and brush from under that pile of junk in the backseat, and put a roadside emergency kit in the trunk. I got my emergency kit from the Red Cross. They do a great job of putting it all together for you, but if you want to make your own, make sure you’ve at least got a small shovel, a blanket, jumper cables (and instructions on how to use them) and something to aid in traction (sand, cat litter, or a traction mat). A more comprehensive list of what you could need can be found here. Have an extra charger in your car for your mobile phone too. I keep my roadside assistance number handy as well.

Woman brushing snow off a car

Keeping things clear

I always clean off all the snow and ice before I leave my driveway: windshield, windows, mirrors, top of the car, wheel wells (if it’s building up), hood and trunk. That “it’ll blow-off eventually” attitude doesn’t cut it if I want to be safe, and courteous to others – plus, you may get fined by police if your vehicle is insufficiently clean. I find it’s also helpful to give a gentle wipe to the back-up cam. With working from home this past year, the car can sit for days and accumulate a lot of snow and ice, so I’ve gotten into the habit of clearing off the car when I shovel the sidewalk and walkway each day. That way, it’ll be ready to go if I need to get somewhere in an emergency (or will just make the next time I go out to get groceries a little less of an ordeal).

Slush and mud can quickly accumulate on the headlights and really dim their strength, not to mention my car’s visibility to others, so I do a quick check to make sure they’re clean before heading out.

Scheduled maintenance

For all the “under-the-hood” stuff that isn’t easy to spot, I make sure that I’ve taken my vehicle in for its routine oil change and maintenance check-up at my trusty garage before the snow flies. I feel better about going out into challenging weather knowing the belts, hoses, brakes, systems and fluids are all good, and the battery’s been tested and is up for the colder temperatures and extra strain of the winter months.

Keeping the tank full

Keeping the tank at least half full also means I’ll be ready in case of an emergency. It also helps to keep gas lines from freezing.

Planning ahead

I like to keep an eye on the forecast and road conditions and alter my plans accordingly. In Ontario, I’ve found this site particularly handy. Consult your local ministry of transport for warnings and websites that show current and expected road conditions. Your ministry will also have recommendations and requirements specific to the winter challenges in your area.

That’s how I’ve been keeping things moving during winter. The CAA provides a handy list, if you’re looking for more details on how to keep your vehicle (and your driving skills) in good shape during this tough season.

How about you? What maintenance tasks do you perform in the coldest months? Do you have any tricks or tips? Share in the comments!

~Paul D.

Time for a Tune-Up?

Around this time of year, my friend Brian conducts what he calls his "Spring Trunk Clearance".

I remember being excited when he told me about it, because I assumed it had to do with a fun shopping trip. But he was actually talking about the one time per year that he cleans out his trunk.

"I found a bottle of wine in there last year," he told me, "so it was totally worth it."

When spring comes around, cleaning out your trunk is a good start - but taking your car in for a tune-up may be the best way to welcome spring. Booking an appointment for a tune-up may seem like a hassle and an expense, but keeping your car tuned up will save you money on fuel and repairs in the long run.

Mechanic under a Car

How often should I get a tune-up?

That depends on your vehicle. Your owner's manual should tell you how often your vehicle requires maintenance and what specific parts need to be checked or replaced. If you have an older vehicle, you may want to do more frequent checks.

What's involved in a tune-up?

Again, it depends on your vehicle, but a typical tune-up will involve the inspection, cleaning and/or replacement of:

  • Air filters
  • Fuel filters
  • Spark plugs and wires
  • Distributor cap and distribution ignition rotor (if your car has them - some newer models have distributorless ignition)
  • PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve and gaskets
  • Sensors and belts
  • Lubricants and coolants
  • Ignition timing
  • Tire alignment and tire pressure
  • Car battery
  • Windshield wipers

It's a pretty extensive list! If you're comfortable under the hood of your car, you can perform some of these maintenance items yourself - but even the most experienced DIY'ers know when it's time to let a professional check out their vehicle.

What are the benefits of a tune-up?

As we've discussed in previous PumpTalk posts, each of the systems above, from fuel injectors to air filters can impact your fuel efficiency and carbon emissions. Regular tune-ups can help you save on fuel - and having a professional perform a thorough cleaning and diagnostic of your vehicle can help avoid costly future repairs by catching potential problems early.

When was the last time you took your car in for maintenance? Is it time for a little springtime tune-up?

Road-tripping Safely this Summer

Last weekend, I went on a picnic for the first time in what seems like a million years. And as you can imagine, the process for heading out on a simple picnic has changed from the last time I went. I’m used to swinging by my local sandwich shop, picking up a few items, and driving wherever the mood took me. Often down to Peace Arch Provincial Park – which is currently closed. And normally I’d text a bunch of friends – maybe 2 would show up, maybe 20. Not this time. Need to keep that social bubble small.

Social Distanced Picnic

But even in light of restrictions, I still had a great time – it just takes a little planning. If you’re headed out on a road trip this summer - whether a day trip for a picnic, an overnight stay at a campground, or a longer holiday – there are ways to travel safely. And a lot of great resources out there to help!

Plan Your Destination

Since each territory and province has a different re-opening schedule and regulations, you’ll want to check the specifics of your destination. Every province and territory has published their COVID-19 restrictions on their websites, including guidelines for using public spaces like provincial parks.

And if you happen to be road-tripping inter-provincially, you’ll want to make sure you’re actually allowed to visit. The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable has put together a tool that allows you to check what locations you’re permitted to visit based on your residency, including links to that location’s public health guidelines. Handy!

Also, Parks Canada’s website offers some great tips for visiting this summer – whether you’re headed there for a day trip or a longer visit.

Be Self Sufficient

Be aware that if you’re headed up to the cottage or cabin, smaller communities where these are typically located have more limited health care and other resources. Don’t put a strain on these communities – bring the essentials that you need with you. And if you do go out, respect physical distancing protocols and mask regulations. And don’t go out if you’re sick or exhibiting symptoms.

For more information, Destination BC has a comprehensive list of ways to travel safely and responsibly this summer.

Keep Your Car Clean and Organized

When you’re road-tripping, you’ll want to make sure that you keep your car clean and organized. If you’re like me, you may not have been using it a lot lately, but now that I head out for day trips, I’m a lot more aware of all the surfaces I touch in the car.

  • Using disinfectant wipes, regularly wipe down "high touch" surfaces on a regular basis. This includes places like: the steering wheel, volume knob, temperature controls, seat belts, door handles, gear shift, etc. Be careful about using wipes with bleach - they can damage the interior of your vehicle. Always test on a small area first. And it is better to spray a cleaning solution on a rag and use it rather than directly on the surface itself.
  • Don't forget to give your key fob a wipe as well.
  • Air out your vehicle. If you can, occasionally give the AC a rest, open your vehicle’s windows and let the fresh air in.
  • Car seats can harbour crumbs and germs - make sure you're cleaning your children's car seats regularly. You can vacuum out the crumbs, but check your manufacturer's guidelines on what to use to wipe down the seat, belts, etc.

Cleaning Kit in Your Car

Keeping your car organized can also help keep it clean. A few tips:

  • Designate a specific receptacle for trash. If there's one container, you'll be more likely to empty it on a regular basis than if trash is just scattered everywhere. Plus you can give that trash receptacle a regular clean.
  • Put a small caddy together with a box of tissues, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and an extra mask. This will save you time instead of having to dig through your purse or bag as well as keeping additional touched surfaces to a minimum.

And don’t forget to wash your hands after you’ve unloaded your car.

It’s so nice to be able to get out and about and enjoy the beauty of Canada. Please stay safe and healthy and continue to be kind to one another as we navigate this next phase of the new normal.

If you want to know what Petro-Canada is doing to support guests and on-site teams at our locations, please check out our COVID-19 response. If you’re looking for more information about preventing the spread of COVID-19, check out Health Canada’s website – there is great information there about proper hygiene and cleaning.

~Rose R.

How Often Do You Get Your Vehicle Serviced?

I love my car – my trusty Saturn Vue, Chloe (named after a character from the series “24”). She’s a 2006 model and one of the reasons that she’s still in such great condition at fourteen years young is that I take her in for regular maintenance. Generally speaking we go in twice a year, Spring and Winter. Usually one of the appointments is just regular stuff – oil check, filter check, tire check, etc. – and the other will be a little more involved – tire rotation, fluid flush – you know, the good stuff.

Maintain Your Vehicle

I really like taking her in for service. The team at the auto shop has been looking after her for ten years now and they always do a great job. Plus I think she appreciates the attention.

Since I don’t have a long daily commute, with my twice-a-year-service, I’m generally ahead of the ten months or 10,000 KM schedule that my vehicle manual suggests – or required, really, at the outset to keep my warranty active. Felling pretty smug, I was surprised to hear about a recent case where Canadian owners are being required to follow the “Severe Usage Maintenance Schedule” (vs the “Normal”) simply because they live in Canada. [1] My Saturn manual states that I need to follow the “severe” schedule when I regularly drive in temperatures under -29 degrees Celsius. Which for most of the country happens at least once a year.

Out of curiosity I checked a few provincial driver’s handbooks to see what they recommend. When they do have a section on vehicle maintenance (about ½ of them do), it is quite generic. Ontario has one of the most comprehensive sections on vehicle maintenance, but it doesn’t state particular timelines or distance driven markers. Rather, it has tips on what to watch out for that would indicate that your vehicle may need service. And it admonishes drivers to check their individual driver’s manuals.

Do you have a particular maintenance schedule for your vehicle? Do you follow your owner’s manual to the letter or just when something serious occurs? Let us know in the comments.

~Rose R.