As the days draw shorter and the weather cools, Highlands residents are preparing themselves for an extended visit from old man winter.

One of the best ways to get ready, according to Haliburton mechanic John Granger, is to ensure your vehicle is wellequipped to handle months of messy weather. He shared some simple steps people can take in the coming weeks to ensure a safe and smooth drive in even the worst conditions.

“The number one recommendation is winter tires. Living in an area like Haliburton County, it’s very important to change over before the snow comes – any time after Thanksgiving is usually what we recommend,” Granger said.

According to the Rubber and Tire Association of Canada, only 69 per cent of drivers nationwide use winter tires. While they can be costly, with new sets starting at around $500 for most sedans and $700 and up for SUVs and trucks, they do work. Studies from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation show that stopping times are decreased by 30 per cent when winter tires are used, compared to all-season or summer tires.

While changing your tires over, Granger said it’s a good idea to inspect your brakes.

“If the pads need replacing, or you need any other work done, it’s a lot easier to do that while the wheels are already off,” he said.

A lot of people will change tires themselves, but Granger said there is a benefit to having them done at a shop.

“You get peace of mind knowing [your vehicle] has been inspected by a professional, who will look at the brakes, retorque the tires and make sure everything is safe,” he said.

Rust control is something mechanics are preaching now too. There is an assortment of products available to protect your vehicles from salts and other harsh commodities found on roads during the winter. Granger uses Rust Check at Haliburton Auto, which offers two options to car owners.

“Winter can be very tough on vehicles, so anything you can do to protect them will probably save you money in the long run. A lot of vehicles have already received some form of rust protection in their lifetime, but it’s important to keep it up,” Granger said.

Crevice areas hidden inside body sections, such as joints, folds, seams, spot welds, springs and trunk lids are places where corrosion starts and spreads from. Granger said these areas are treated with a light spray, while a vehicle’s undercarriage is coated in a thick oil, which stays on longer.

Even if your vehicle is showing signs of rusting, having those areas treated will significantly slow the rusting process.

Other often overlooked maintenance tips, Granger said, is replacing the cabin air filter, lubricating window tracks, ensuring your vehicle’s coolant strength is where it needs to be, and installing a new set of wiper blades.

“I change my blades once a year. Ahead of winter is a good time, because you don’t want to be stuck on the road with bad weather and wiper blades that don’t work properly,” Granger said. “And always make sure your washer fluid is topped up, because again, you don’t want to be stuck without that when your windshield needs cleaning.”