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Car care: 6 key fluids to check before winter



The fluids in your car help ensure that its various components, the engine included, can operate at their peak. Before winter arrives, it’s essential to ensure they’re topped up. Here are six fluids you need to check.

1. Motor oil
Motor oil lubricates and cleans the engine, thereby reducing friction between its moving parts. Wait about 15 minutes after turning your car off to check the oil level. When refilling the oil, gradually add small quantities until the maximum level has been reached.

2. Brake fluid

This hydraulic fluid is crucial to the functioning of your car’s brake system. When the brake fluid is running low, the brake warning light on your dashboard (an exclamation point inside a circle) should light up. The brake fluid reservoir is located at the rear of the engine compartment on the driver’s side.

3. Transmission fluid
Transmission fluid lubricates moving parts, facilitates gear shifts, and cools the transmission. To check how much of this fluid your car has, start the engine and inspect the transmission dipstick, typically located on the driver’s side of the engine compartment. In some manual transmission cars, the dipstick is difficult to access and the task of checking the transmission is best left to a professional.

4. Coolant
Coolant is responsible for heat transfer in the engine and prevents damage caused by boiling or freezing. The coolant reservoir is transparent and found near the radiator. It should never be opened while the radiator is still hot. It’s recommended that you check the reservoir for leaks every few weeks and change the coolant according to your car manufacturer’s recommendations.

5. Gear oil
Also called differential fluid, gear oil lubricates the gears that transfer power from the driveshaft to the wheel axles. Get your gear oil level checked by a mechanic before winter.

6. Power steering fluid
Power steering fluid is essential to the functioning of the power steering system in vehicles with this feature. Power steering fluid needs to be changed about every four years or when the liquid has turned light brown. The reservoir is located in the engine compartment and marked with a steering wheel symbol.

In addition, make sure to keep an eye on your windshield washer fluid level. Winter road conditions can quickly cause a mess and being able to see clearly will keep you, your passengers and other road users safe.

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Winter safety tips: coats and car seats



Did you know that wearing a puffy coat or snowsuit while sitting in a car seat can put your child in danger? Here’s what you should know about keeping little ones safe and warm in the car this winter.

The risks
A thick winter coat gives the illusion that a car seat’s straps are snug and that your baby is securely fastened. However, that bulky material will compress upon impact in a crash and create a gap between the harness and the child’s body. This space is large enough that your baby can easily slip through the straps or be thrown from the seat entirely.

How to test the seat

Place your child in the car seat while they’re wearing the coat, and tighten the harness until it’s snug. (You shouldn’t be able to pinch the strap at their shoulder). Next, unfasten the straps without loosening them, remove the coat and place your child back in the seat. If the straps need to be tightened more, it means the coat is too bulky.

Safe alternatives
To keep your child warm in the car without compromising their safety, dress them in fitted layers such as a thermal knit sweater and fleece jacket. Once your child is fastened in the car seat, you can cover them with blankets or their coat. Just be sure to leave their face uncovered.

For a baby, you can use a car seat cover, but only if it doesn’t have a layer that goes underneath the infant.

To find everything you need to keep your child safe and warm in the car, visit the stores in your area.

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After an accident, here are the people who’ll be by your side



A car accident can be traumatic, even if you don’t suffer any physical injuries. Fortunately, a variety of professionals will be by your side every step of the way to ensure that you and your vehicle are in good hands.

Police officers
If a car accident causes an injury or property damage over a certain value, the police must be notified. You should also call the police if you suspect the accident was caused by a violation of the highway safety code.


If you sustain a serious injury in the accident, you’ll be taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital. There, you’ll be examined by a team of health-care professionals and given the necessary care.

Tow truck drivers
If you’re injured or your car’s unsafe to drive following the accident, a towing company will be called to bring your vehicle to a nearby mechanic or auto body repair shop.

Insurance agents
Call your insurer as soon as possible to report the accident. They’ll make arrangements with you to assess the damage and, if applicable, guide you through the process of filing a claim.

Car rental agents
While you wait for your car to be repaired, which can take days or even weeks, your local car rental agency can provide you with a temporary set of wheels. This makes it easier to resume your day-to-day activities following an accident.

Finally, be sure to turn to friends and family members for emotional support following an accident. If you experience anxiety, nightmares, or panic attacks following the accident, consider speaking with a mental health professional.

Your responsibilities
It’s important to note that all drivers are obliged to stop if they’re involved in an accident, no matter how minor. If no one is injured, exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver and document details about the accident.

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5 unsafe winter driving habits



When the roads are covered in snow and ice, motorists need to be extra careful to avoid being in an accident. Here are five driving practices that have no place on the roads in winter.

1. Driving too fast
Fast driving and icy road conditions can be a lethal combination. Slow down, especially in bad weather.

2. Following too close

It can take up to 10 times longer to come to a full stop on an icy road. It’s important that you give yourself more braking distance in the winter by leaving ample space between your car and the one in front of you.

3. Using the wrong tires
Driving with summer or all-season tires on winter roads is simply unsafe. Winter tires improve traction and vehicle handling on snow-, ice- and slush-covered roads.

4. Neglecting to clear off your car
Clearing snow and ice off your car can be tedious, but it’s a must if you want to have adequate visibility on the road. Make sure to clear off your car’s headlights and taillights too.

5. Looking at your phone
Distracted driving is always dangerous, but it’s especially hazardous on snowy and icy roads. Drivers must be able to respond quickly to changing road conditions.

Finally, try to limit how often you drive and choose your route carefully. In winter, accidents can happen to even the most careful drivers.

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How to safely brake in winter



In icy driving conditions, braking suddenly can end in disaster. This is why you should always strive to come to a gradual stop in winter. However, in some cases, you may have no choice but to hit the brakes. Here’s how to come to a quick and safe stop on an icy road.

With anti-lock brakes
Almost all newer cars have an anti-lock braking system (ABS). When engaged, the ABS automatically pumps the brakes and prevents them from locking up. Pumping the brakes is the best way to bring a car to a stop when sliding on ice. To engage the ABS, firmly press down on the brake pedal and don’t let up until your car has come to a stop.

Without anti-lock brakes

If your car isn’t equipped with an ABS, pressing down on the brake pedal is the last thing you want to do on the ice, as this will cause the brakes to lock up and your car to skid. Instead, manually pump the brakes by applying and releasing moderate pressure at a steady rate.

The best way to become comfortable using these braking techniques is to take a winter driving course. Sign up for one in your area if you want to learn how to be safer on the roads.

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A step-by-step guide to reverse parking



When parking in a busy lot, backing into your space is a smart move. Being able to drive forward when exiting the space affords you better visibility and lowers the risk of colliding with another car or a pedestrian. Here’s how to reverse park using the 90-degree method.

How to do it
The key to parking in reverse is the starting point. If your car is well-positioned when you begin, you’re golden.

As cars are different sizes and have different turning radiuses, drivers need to experiment a little to determine the ideal starting position for reversing their vehicle into a parking spot. For this reason, it’s a good idea to practice in an empty lot.

The following instructions can serve as a basic guide to backing up a regular-sized sedan:

• Slowly drive past the space in which you plan to park, leaving a distance of about four feet between your car and the front of the parking spot (where the end of the painted line).

• Stop your car once it’s lined up with the parking space next to the one you want to pull in to. The middle of your car should be aligned with the middle of that parking space. To gauge this, you can align your mirrors with the painted line separating the second and third parking space.

• Turn your steering wheel all the way and slowly back up, looking over your shoulder to see where you’re going. If your car was well-positioned when you began reversing, it’ll turn into the right spot. You’ll simply need to straighten the car as you enter the available space.

With a little practice, you’ll be able to figure out precisely where you need to position your car to effortlessly reverse into a parking spot.

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Safe driving tips for holiday partygoers



Driving under the influence during the holidays is a common phenomenon, with drunk drivers causing more traffic deaths between Christmas and New Year’s Eve than at other times of the year. Here are some practices you should adopt to help ensure you and your passengers get around safely during the holidays.

Are you fit to drive?
First, make sure you don’t contribute to the problem of drunk driving yourself. Even small quantities of alcohol can impair your ability to drive. So if you’re the designated driver for the night, it’s best to avoid drinking altogether.

If you do plan to drink, do so responsibly. The one-drink-an-hour rule works for some people. However, a person’s level of intoxication will depend on various factors such as their weight and the type of alcohol being consumed.

If there’s any indication that your ability to drive is impaired, don’t get behind the wheel. Always have a back-up plan, whether it’s calling a cab, sleeping over, or getting a ride from a friend or family member.

Drive defensively
Driving defensively is always a good practice, but it’s an especially wise approach when driving at night during the holiday season. In particular:

• Be attentive. Always be prepared to take preventive action to avoid an accident. Sit up straight, keep both hands on the wheel, and be aware of your surroundings.
• Be careful at intersections. Watch out for drivers running red lights: even if you have priority, look both ways.
• Take your safety into your own hands. You can’t always count on other drivers to be safe on the road. Stay out of other cars’ blind spots and maintain a safe following distance.

Finally, never get into a car with someone who you suspect has had too much to drink. Call a cab or UBER and encourage them to do the same.

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