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Save money this winter

It's winter in Canada, and that can mean bad weather. Most of us still have to drive in poor conditions, so is there anything that can help keep winter driving costs to a minimum?

The experts think so. Here are seven ways to make the most of your winter-driving dollars.

Tip No. 1: Keep up the maintenance
"The first thing is to keep your car in good shape. This climate is the most rigorous test you can put your car though," says Jason Mancinelli, a mechanic with more than 20 years' experience and partner of Driven Automotive Repair & Detailing Center in Regina, S.K. "Most cars are not built for Canadian weather."

That means staying on top of spark plug and suspension maintenance to keep your fuel burning efficiently and your tires on the road.

And don't overlook the health of your car battery. "Things wear out faster in extreme conditions," says Mancinelli. "With the cost of diagnostics and everything else, to try to get an extra year out of a battery -- it's not worth it. I replace my battery every five years."

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Tip No. 2: Check your tires
Mancinelli is a very strong advocate of winter tires. "Winter tires are a must -- I can't believe those aren't mandated by law. In this climate you need winter tires; other people's lives are at stake," he says.

Legislators in Quebec, where winter tires are mandated by law, agree. Going without will cost you a fine of at least $200. But no matter where you live, the right set of snow or ice tires will increase your traction, decrease your chances of getting stuck and improve your ability to respond to the unexpected. Make sure your tire pressure is set to optimum performance and have the tires balanced -- then you'll get the most out of their performance.

Tip No. 3: Idle engines are the devil's chequebook.
Even if you live in Iqaluit, your car does not need half an hour to "warm up." It takes your engine about 30 seconds to be ready to drive, even in the winter. Newer engines don't throw off much heat, so you should warm your car up by just driving it. Idling an engine is one of the most costly things you can do in any season, and you get zero kilometres per litre.

And if you're cold, wear a coat -- you'll need it anyway.

Tip No. 4: Reduce your water weight
Water weighs a lot, even in the form of snow or ice. Take the extra five minutes in the morning to clear your car of snow and ice, remembering to clean out the wheel wells and blocked windshield vents. Accumulated ice and snow create drag that reduces fuel efficiency.

(continued on next page)
-- Posted December 27, 2010
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