217 entries categorized "Driving"

May is Motorcycle Safety Month: Let’s Watch Out for Each Other

Ah, the sounds of spring: birds singing… and engines revving. 

There is nothing like that feeling of hitting the open road in the springtime. Windows down and music playing, it’s a good time to be driving. I live on a main street, and at this time of year certain car owners gleefully make their presence known. After a long winter of being bundled up, and careful driving through wintery conditions, the temptation to “let her rip'' is hard to resist.

For Canadian motorcyclists, spring has a whole other significance. It’s when many of them get their bikes back out on the road.  I can only imagine how exhilarating that first ride of the season must be. For the rest of us motorists, it can be a bit of a surprise after not seeing them for months, and suddenly a motorcycle appears in our side or rear view mirror (is that a car with a burnt out headlight behind me?). It’s fitting then, that May is Motorcycle Safety Month in Canada and the US.

Motorcycle Safety Month - Watch Out for Each Other

Once again, this year’s campaign by the Motorcycle Confederation of Canada is to Watch Out for Each Other, encouraging motorists to be on the look out for motorcyclists, and motorcyclists to return the favour. That way, we can all stay safe! For motorists looking to do our part, here’s some tips to consider:

  • Check your mirrors and blind spots for motorcyclists, and be sure to signal before changing lanes.
  • Motorcyclists are entitled to a full lane, just like any other vehicle. Don’t crowd them or try to share a lane with them on the road or at intersections.
  • Motorcycles often aren’t equipped with self-cancelling turn signals, and riders sometimes forget to turn them off, so make sure that bike is actually turning before you make a move.
  • Allow more follow distance when behind a motorcycle, to allow more time and space to react in the case of an emergency stop (for both of you!)

And for our motorcyclist friends:

So let’s watch out for each other! With a little extra care we can make sure we’re all enjoying being on the road this season, and all year long.

Wishing motorcyclists and motorists across the country a happy spring and safe driving!

~  Paul D.

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

Staying Safe During the Daylight Saving Time Change

I’m of two minds at this time of year. I’m excited that spring is almost here: days warm up, trees sprout new growth, and outdoor patios beckon. But then I remember that to get to all that good stuff, we have to endure Daylight Saving Time – that dreaded day when clocks “spring ahead” an hour and I’m sleepy and cranky for a few days. And that day is happening this weekend (except for you lucky folks in Saskatchewan, parts of BC and the Yukon). Sigh.

Woman Yawning while Driving Car

Aside from me being cranky, there are some real impacts of the bi-annual time change. Studies have shown that time changes, both spring and fall, result in detrimental health effects as well as increased traffic accidents. But if we know the time change is coming, there are steps we can take to protect others and ourselves when we’re on the road.

  • Go to bed early all weekend. Start going to bed early on the Friday and Saturday before Daylight Saving Time kicks in - it will help your body adjust sooner.
  • A lot of us have been working remotely for the last two years. If you have the option to telecommute, the Monday after Daylight Saving Time is the time to do it. Enjoy a little more sleep and avoid potentially sleepy drivers going to and from the office.
  • Acknowledge that your body is out of whack and take a little extra time. Take a moment when you get into the car to really focus on the route you're about to take. Apparently it can take as long as two weeks for our bodies to adjust to the change in time - so be sure to keep tabs on your fatigue and avoid driving when sleepy.
  • Cut down on in-car distractions. Consider leaving the music off and if you're a coffee drinker, enjoy that java before you leave the house or after you get to work - no sipping on the road!
  • Keep it cool. If it's warm in the car, you'll feel cozy…and drowsy. Keeping the car cooler will help you stay alert. Turn down the heat or open the window for a little fresh air.
  • Focus to AND from work. You might think that the most accidents happen in the morning following Daylight Saving Time but in fact, the majority of them happened on the afternoon commute home, when your lack of sleep may really be catching up with you. Take a moment before leaving work to relax and focus on that drive home.
  • Bring the right eyewear. You may have been heading home in twilight the last few weeks and with the time change, the day will still be bright. Make sure to have your sunglasses on hand, particularly if you're driving west.

Do you have any post-Daylight Saving Time "getting back to normal" rituals? Share them in the comments! And be safe out there on Monday!

~Kate T.

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.

Making the EV Switch – Interviews with Paul Raszewski and David Bennett

I’m a big fan of online reviews, especially when I’m shopping for a new piece of technology. For everything from my oscillating fan to my cookware to my TV, I’ve researched and combed my way through a myriad of posts on various sites. Folks who leave reviews are often quite specific and generous with their information, which I appreciate very much.

But, sometimes, you just need to talk it out with someone who’s been through the research and purchasing process before – especially when it’s a purchase that’s as central to your life as a vehicle. And if you’re considering switching from a gas-powered vehicle to an electric one, it’s even more helpful to talk to someone who’s done it.

Recently I spoke with Paul Raszewski and David Bennett. Paul is a realtor and the co-founder of TEVA – the Toronto Electric Vehicle Association, an organization dedicated to electric transportation advocacy, education and adoption. David is a Suncor employee in Fort McMurray and an EV enthusiast. I asked them both about their history with EVs, surprises along the way and advice for folks considering the switch.

PT: Tell me a bit about your history with EVs.

Paul: I’m passionate about new technologies and was curious about electric cars – this was back in 2011. You had the choice of 3 options in Canada then: the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. I chose the i-MiEV because it was the cheapest at the time. Since then, we’ve had 6 different EVs; there are currently 3 in the family. We’ve had pure electric models, plug in hybrid models and hybrids with range extenders. When I first got the i-MiEV, I would only drive it around town, not take it on long trips. But the technology has come really far! My current car, the Audi e-tron can go over 400KM on a charge.

Paul’s Audi e-tron at a Petro-Canada fast charger
Paul’s Audi e-tron at a Petro-Canada fast charger

David: We were on a family vacation and my son said he wanted to go for a ride in a Tesla. Side note – you can’t do a same-day test drive in a Tesla; you have to book a co-pilot. But we got the co-pilot booked and finally did the drive. Driving it really threw off my preconceptions about EVs. There’s so much technology on board. And the acceleration is serious! When you hit the accelerator, it’s like you’re already there. After we took the test drive, we were hooked. We got a Tesla in 2018 and I’ve been using it as my daily driver for 3 ½ years. We also have a gas-powered vehicle, but we mainly use the Tesla.

David’s Tesla at a Tesla charging station
David’s Tesla at a Tesla charging station

PT: Anything that surprised you? Either when purchasing the vehicle or the day-to-day driving?

Paul: I’ve been surprised by the lack of knowledge with dealers who are selling EVs. Back when I first bought one, you certainly had to do your own homework. These days, it’s a little better, but still not perfect. For example, sales folks often aren’t aware of how to find a charging station. They will say to just use the car’s GPS. But apps are much better – not only showing you where chargers are located, but how to pay for them. This is one of the reasons we created TEVA – to help educate dealers and drivers about all things EV.

David: A couple of things. First, the process for buying the Tesla. I used to work at a major car dealership and there was a clearly defined process for purchasing a car. With the Tesla it was much different. I just went online, chose my options and clicked “buy”. After the bank called to confirm financing, they delivered the Tesla to our door in Fort Mac. It was pretty cool; the “frunk” (that’s what they call the front trunk) had balloons, short bread cookies and a personal note from Elon Musk.

The other thing that surprised me was how I changed my overall driving and travel style. I don’t do any more passing on the highway – just set my cruise and drive at a constant speed. It’s much more relaxed. Same with travel style. There’s more planning for longer trips, making sure I know where the charging stations are. And when we travel as a family, it’s a very different feeling. When we stop to charge, we get out and locate new spots in the town where we’re charging. We go for lunch together and walk around. It takes longer, but it’s more fun.

PT: Have you tried Petro-Canada’s fast chargers? Any comments?

Paul: Yes, I use them quite extensively, both in Toronto as well as on a road trip cross-country. I also use the Petro-Canada EV App. On the road trip, some of the chargers were broken, so it would be good to remind station owners to report when their charger is offline or unavailable. But when we were able to use them, we did get a 150kW charge. Reporting a problem with a charger is also fairly complicated. Something that the Electrify App has is a one button “Report a Problem” feature. Would like to see this added to the PC app.

Inside Paul’s Audi e-tron at a Petro-Canada fast charger
Inside Paul’s Audi e-tron at a Petro-Canada fast charger

David: Actually, not yet. These days we’re not travelling as much so our home charger has been enough – the closest PC fast charger is down in Calgary, 8 hours away! We’re looking forward to driving out to Halifax – the PC network will make that possible. I would really like to see more fast chargers from Fort Mac to Edmonton. There’s only the one slow charger in Athabasca. Would be great to be able to take the electric highway to the oil sands. Put more chargers up here. The Tesla Owners Club of Alberta holds large rallies wherever there are chargers; it would be great to see 100 owners driving up Highway 63 to Fort Mac, coming north for picture opportunities!

Inside David’s Tesla while driving on a family road trip
Inside David’s Tesla while driving on a family road trip

PT: Finally, any tips for drivers who are considering making the switch to an EV?

Paul: First, don’t be scared off by the cost. Even though the up-front cost is more expensive, the long-term cost is much better. Gasoline vs. electricity – you’ll save. No oil change, not as frequent brake service – the long term servicing costs are better. And second, look for an EV community who can give you support – they’re out there.

Paul and his son, Paul Jr. – co-founders of TEVA
Paul and his son, Paul Jr. – co-founders of TEVA

David: Unless you’ve got your financing in order and are ready to buy, don’t test drive! It’s such a great experience; you won’t be able to get it out of your head. And it will ruin you for other vehicles. When I went back to my gas-powered car after the test drive, it felt so simplistic, like going back 20 years. It really hooks you.

David and his family at the Tesla factory in California
David and his family at the Tesla factory in California


Paul and David – thank you so much for taking the time to share your EV experiences with our readers! And I’ve passed along your comments about the Petro-Canada fast charge network and app to the EV team. Readers, are any of you thinking of making a switch to an EV in the near future? Let us know about your process and questions in the comments!

~ Kate T.