Winter is in full force across much of Canada, with extreme cold and heavy snow causing many frigid and messy commutes.

As the season begins in earnest, experts are highlighting the importance of staying focused on the road and taking care of your vehicle during the winter months.

Here are some key maintenance tips from the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) to help keep your car running smoothly this season.

Keep your tank above the halfway mark

Driving with your gas tank hovering below the halfway mark – or lower – isn’t the best idea in the winter. 

“It’s critical that you keep your gas tank above half during these winter months,” Kaitlynn Furse, public relations manager at CAA South Central Ontario, told CTV News Channel on Friday. 

“If you’re driving, you run into unexpected situations, or perhaps have a breakdown on the side of the road, that does allow you to idle your car and stay warm if needed in an unexpected situation.”

Winter tires are essential

The CAA recommends winter tires throughout the winter months. 

“They do contain a silica gel in them that allows your tire to grip the road more easily, so that really will help your stopping distance up to around 25 per cent,” Furse said. 

The rubber on winter tires also doesn’t harden the same way all-season tires too, providing better grip on the road. 

Check your tire pressure regularly

Checking your tire pressure should be a monthly routine, all year round. During the winter months tire pressure decreases with the temperature, which is why Furse encourages keeping your tires filled up to the vehicle manufacturer’s standards.

“It helps with your control and handling, but also, if you have low tire pressure, it can increase the chances of hitting flat,” Furse said.

Don’t overdo your warm-up

It’s common for people to warm up their car for several minutes in the morning, which can eat up a lot of gas (and money), but it actually isn’t necessary.

“20 or 30 seconds is enough time to get your car warmed up enough that the fluids will be running through the system and you can be off on your way,” Furse explained.

In addition to the suggestions above, the CAA’s winter car care tips include testing your battery; using a block heater; taking your vehicle in for a full checkup; and keeping your windshield washer fluid full.