Is Your Wheelchair Vehicle Ready For Winter?
In the past 24 hours here in Winnipeg, over 15 cm of snow has fallen. The balmy -2 Degrees Celsius we have had for the past few weeks has been quite nice. Everyone was starting to gear up for a “Brown Christmas” but it looks like we will have a “White Christmas” after all.
Winter brings new challenges to Canadian drivers with the cold, ice and snow, especially if you live in parts of the country with lots of snow or extremely cold temperatures. For those of us in the prairies where winter seems to go on for endless months at a time, driving can become a chore. It’s super important to keep your wheelchair accessible vehicle in good working order to keep you, your family and those around you safe. These challenges can be even more difficult for someone who uses a wheelchair vehicle. As snow builds up around curbs, the freeze/thaw creates ice making driving conditions difficult and getting around, in general, more difficult.
But there is good news and a way to survive winter driving. These top 7 tips on how to winterize your wheelchair accessible vehicle will make your life a lot easier and give you peace of mind when battling the blustery, winter roads.
Tip #1 – Change Your Wiper Blades & Refill Wiper Fluid With The Temperature Appropriate Washer Fluid
There’s nothing worse on a warm, sloppy day of driving when you go to clean your windshield only to find out your wiper fluid is empty. Or worse yet, you go to use it and you had left the summer wiper fluid in the reservoir. And to add insult to injury, if you do manage to get a spritz or two out, your wiper blades flap around your windshield because the rubber has become loose and is falling off. Often this leaves you with a blind spot you cannot get cleaned.
Keep your visibility at its best by using a winter washer fluid. This way when you need it, you have it. Also, make the investment into new wiper blades so they can make proper contact with the windshield to keep your windows clear. As well, in the days when the snow is blowing or coming down badly, you can keep your windows clear. Do yourself a favour and keep an extra jug or two of washer fluid in your wheelchair accessible van to make sure you have some for when you need it.
Tip #2 – Buy A Snow Brush & Window Scraper
Just like having the right fluid and wiper blades, having a snow brush and window scraper are just as important. On those colder days or after a good night’s snowfall, you need to be able to clean the windows. Nothing is worse than having a buildup of ice on the windshield and needing to get somewhere quickly only to not have your snow brush and scraper. Keep these things with you at all times either in the trunk, back seat, passenger seat or wherever you find it easy to grab and use.
Tip #3 – Check Tire Pressure Regularly
I remember going to work one morning in mid-October only to see my low tire pressure light had come on. Fortunately, after checking the monitor on my van, pressure had only dropped a bit. However, the day before had been nice and warm and with a very cold night and the shift to winter weather, the tires lost pressure. Tire pressure may fluctuate throughout the winter and it is important to keep your tires on your wheelchair accessible van properly inflated.
Tire pressure is very important as it helps prevent flat tires and blowouts. As well, optimal tire pressure increases maneuverability. Given how slick or snowy roads can get, it’s important the tires on your wheelchair vehicle are at the correct pressure.
Tip #4 – Purchase A Winter Package For Your Wheelchair Vehicle
Take your wheelchair accessible vehicle to your automotive repair shop and ask to get it winterized. They will go through all your fluid levels, check your belts and hoses, test your battery and make sure everything is up to snuff and in working order. I have seen packages like this advertised for 50 or 60 bucks depending on the exact services they perform. It’s an investment worth making as you will know your wheelchair accessible vehicle is in proper working order and ready for winter.
Tip #5 – Keep Your Gas Tank As Full As Possible
There are a few other benefits to keeping your gas tank full other than making sure you don’t get stranded somewhere. When your gas tank isn’t full, there is a possibility condensation will build up in the empty area of the tank. In the winter time, this can cause issues as ice can build up making it hard or impossible for your wheelchair van to start. Secondly, if there isn’t enough gas in the tank, your fuel pump won’t work as there will not be enough fuel to deliver. Lastly, on occasion rust or corrosion can get trapped in your fuel tank. When you’re running low on gas, this sediment can build and collect and block your fuel filter potentially causing issues and expensive repairs.
Tip #6 – Keep An Emergency Kit In Your Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle
No matter the time of year, it is always possible you may find yourself in an emergency. In the winter time, you may find yourself stuck on the side of a road or the wheelchair accessible vehicle won’t start. Having an emergency kit packed in your wheelchair vehicle will help keep you safe and warm. You can put your items into a bag or bin and keep it in your trunk. The Canadian Government put together a really helpful checklist to include in your emergency kit. You can check out the complete list here. Common items to keep in the bag year round are food like granola bars, crackers, and other easy to grab non-perishable items, bottled water (change it every six months), a First Aid kit, wind-up flashlight, candle and matches/lighter, whistle, extra clothing and some blankets. You may also want to have things like roadmaps, vehicle cell phone charger and a fire extinguisher,
The winter items you will want to have are booster cables, kitty litter (non-clumping) or salt, road flares, tow rope and as mentioned before extra washer fluid. I would also add a small shovel and maybe even a small section of carpet if you need to dig yourself out and get a bit of extra traction.
Tip #7 – Get Help From A Family Member, Neighbour or Friend
On the days where snowfall has been heavy or when things get slippery around the house, make arrangements for someone to come help you. You may want or need them to do some shoveling for you so you can get out of the driveway easily. Or maybe you need someone to come and brush off the wheelchair vehicle and scrape your windows so you can see. No matter the reason, have someone you can count on for the times when you do need to go out and brave the cold.
I hope you find these tips useful and helpful as we take on our Canadian winter over the next few months. The main takeaway from all of this is to make sure you keep yourself and others safe. As a provider of wheelchair accessible vehicles in Winnipeg, we know winter all too well and we want everyone to be safe on the roads.