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Car tips to help you outsmart winter

Compared to the rest of the country, BC’s winters can seem a little ‘laid back’ which might make you feel little or no urgency to get prepared. But what if we told you that when harsh weather hits, the number of roadside assistance calls BCAA receives across the province can spike up by 50%?

During frigid or snowy weather in Metro Vancouver, roadside assistance calls can even double!

Each year, we see this happen—as communities across BC get hit with their first snowfall, there's a mad dash to get our cars in for service and install our winter tires while some of us still have to shop for tires. Meanwhile, vehicle repair shops get fully booked and winter continues to descend upon us.

BCAA Automotive Technicians see first-hand the challenges drivers experience each winter. Here are their top tips to help you beat the rush and avoid a roadside emergency. Spoiler alert: their biggest tip is to prepare early.

Car problems

Most common roadside emergencies aren’t only caused by snow

When we think about winter driving, we often fixate on how to navigate on snow and ice. But BC winters can be a mixed bag that can dish out other challenging conditions on top of the white stuff.

In addition to cars sliding off the road or getting stuck on ice, much of what BCAA Automotive Technicians see are dead batteries, frozen car locks and flat or underinflated tires. These vehicle breakdowns aren’t caused by snow specifically which tells us that other winter conditions, like cold temperatures, continuous rain and ice are enough of a challenge for drivers and our cars.

Top tips from BCAA Automotive Experts

Here’s how to beat the rush to the repair shop, save time and money, and more importantly—stay safe all winter long.

  1. Book your winter car service early
    The first sight of snow triggers one of the busiest times for car maintenance shops and you may be waiting a while to get an appointment. Beat the rush by scheduling your maintenance appointment.

    BCAA's Auto Service Centres' have winter maintenance packages starting at $68, which include a 42-point inspection.
    It's also worth remembering, next time you need a new car battery, you can save $80 with BCAA's Battery Service Program thanks to your BCAA Membership!

    Winter driving
  2. Be aware of BC’s Winter Tire Law
    Install winter tires, marked with a mountain and snowflake or M+S symbol, especially if you plan to travel on BC highways. From October 1 until March 31, sections of highways require winter tires or chains onboard. Visit the BC Government’s website to get details and updates. Use our BCAA Winter Tire Guide to learn more and get tips.
  3. Get early winter deals on tires
    Many tire manufacturers offer rebates on new tires during the fall. Visit your local BCAA Auto Service Centre and one of our trusted experts can help you choose the right tires for your driving needs. Plus, BCAA Members can earn up to 120 CAA Dollars® or receive a $100 cash rebate with the purchase of four eligible Pirelli tires until December 18, 2023.

    Car Tires
  4. Make sure crucial car parts will work when you need them most
    Ensure car components essential to safety are working properly, including: brakes, headlights, brake lights, windshield wipers and even your car’s air conditioning (that's right, it’s the A/C that can often defog your windows faster). BCAA Auto Service Centre’s 42-point inspection includes checks on all these aspects, including your battery. And if you want to replace a few parts yourself, or if you need any automotive gear, BCAA Members can save 10% at NAPA Auto Parts
  5. Allow time for repairs
    If a major repair is required, having your car checked by an automotive expert early on gives you enough time to get your car fixed before the weather really starts to turn. This also helps you prepare your family and schedule for when your car must be in the garage for repairs.

    car repair
  6. Have a roadside emergency kit
    Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving tasks, such as removing snow and ice off your car, as well as any supplies you might need in an emergency.

    Check out our list of roadside emergency kit essentials.
    Include a BCAA Membership as part of your kit, and carry your Membership card or BCAA Mobile App with you in case you get stuck—you’ll have access to our roadside assistance 24/7. It's also a good idea to check your Membership plan to ensure you have the right coverage for your needs. Members can also get 20% off a vehicle emergency kit from F.A.S.T. using your BCAA Membership.

    Pro tip: Make sure you've downloaded the new BCAA Mobile App to get faster access to roadside assistance. Plus, you can use the BCAA Service Tracker to see the driver’s location and estimated arrival in real-time where available - and even share this information with family and loved ones.
  7. Keep deicing spray handy (outside of your car)
    Commercially-available deicing spray is effective on frozen car locks. Carry a small bottle with you and keep extras at home and at the office. Remember, you won’t be able to access the deicing spray if it’s kept in the glove compartment when your car locks freeze over.

To get an early jump on winter driving, you can also get more tips from Shift Into Winter BC’s website. BCAA is a partner of The Winter Driving Safety Alliance, a joint provincial initiative supported by organizations committed to improving the safety of drivers during the winter months.

Be ready for the unexpected

We also understand that things out of your control can happen, and if you have a vehicle breakdown, we’re here to help. Signing up for a BCAA Membership before winter conditions become harsh will ensure you can get roadside assistance 24/7 all winter long. Plus, BCAA Members save up 20% on BCAA Optional Car Insurance. Get peace of mind knowing you're protected for the unexpected.