It is upon us. The snow, the ice, and the sub-zero temperatures: our (least) favourite season, for driving at least. That’s right, winter is officially here.

With this whitest, coldest, slipperiest of seasons come less than desirable driving conditions. One of the most important aspects of winter driving is being able to stop your vehicle on time. Being able to stop your vehicle quickly enough can be the difference between avoiding an accident and being involved in one. With the ice and snow covering the roads, stopping isn’t always as easy as you’d hope.

One of the best ways to help you avoid the previously mentioned accident is by keeping your vehicle’s brakes in tip-top shape.

Below, we’ve outlined some things you can do, or have done, to ensure your brakes are in the best condition possible for the upcoming winter driving season.

  1. Inspect Your Brake Fluid

Without this fluid, the pressure we apply to the brake pedal would not make it to the actual brakes. Similar to the other fluids at work under the hood, brake fluid requires regular maintenance.

You can either top up the brake fluid on your own, or have a reputable brake inspection facility do it for you (for those of us mechanically challenged folk).

  1. Bleed Your Brake Lines

Aside from ensuring a sufficient supply of brake fluid, your vehicle may also need the brake lines to be “bled”. This refers to the draining of old brake fluid from the system, which is then replaced with new brake fluid.

This is different than simply topping up the brake fluid reservoir, as it involves flushing the lines and circulating entirely new fluid through the system.

This is an important part of brake maintenance, as air bubbles, or “fluid vapour”, can become trapped within the lines. These air and vapour pockets can cause inefficiencies in the braking system, because air, unlike liquid (Ie: brake fluid) can be compressed, which reduces the pressure being applied to the brakes when we push on the brake pedal.

  1. Change Your Pads and Rotors

There are multiple ways to check if it is time to have your brake pads changed. The most common ways to tell if you need new brake pads or rotors are: physically looking at the pads (if the pad is less than ¼ inch thick it is time to replace), listening for a screeching/grinding/or growling sound when braking, and checking for a vibration on the brake pedal when braking.

The more worn out your brake pads or brake rotors are, the less effective and efficient they will be in stopping your vehicle.

Make It Or Break It

Your vehicle’s brakes are truly the “make it or break it” of winter driving. Stopping times and distances are increasingly important come the winter season, and driving with less than perfect brakes only increases your chances of ending up in an undesirable situation.

Check your brake fluid, lines, pads and rotors, or take your vehicle in to have these checked before the roads become skating rinks. You won’t regret it.