Ask an expert: Top driving tips from a former driving champion

Last Updated: December 5, 2018
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Driving in Canada can be anything but easy, and as summer winds down the cooler temperatures will only bring more challenges. To help Canadians feel safer and more confident on the road, we’ve enlisted the help of OK Tire store owner and former ice race car driving champion, Jon Nichols. Ice racing uses a racing circuit and requires exceptional navigation skills, especially on ice!

As a car owner, chances are you’ve wondered if you’re doing everything right in terms of preventative maintenance. Maybe you’ve even questioned how you can get more comfortable behind the wheel.

We spoke to Jon Nichols himself who provided some driving insights he learned during his career to consider when you’re out and about, because who better to give advice than a pro?

What are your top five driving tips for Canadians on the road?

Stretching from Georgian Bay at its most west point to Algonquin Park in the east, the Muskoka region is a favourite among Ontario cottage-goers. The area is famous for its picturesque landscape which once inspired artists ‘The Group of Seven’. Spanning almost 4,000 km2, there’s endless possibilities to scope the fall foliage. Keep an eye out for deer, moose and hawks as you take in the sights!

  • Know your vehicle – Familiarizing yourself with your vehicle will help you feel more comfortable on the road and make everything from parallel parking to judging braking distance easier.
  • Remember ride control – Check your shocks and struts after every 80,000 kilometers to ensure your suspension is functioning properly, making for a smoother, safer ride.
  • Regular maintenance is key – Common mistakes drivers make range from ignoring the check engine light to not checking tire pressure, and simply skipping oil changes. Regular care can save you from costly repairs down the road.
  • Tire talk – Remember, your tires are the only point of contact your vehicle has with the road, so don’t overlook them. When purchasing new tires, factors such as durability, tread, handling, traction, comfort, drag, and noise are what you should consider before making your purchase.
  • To brake or not to brake – To avoid skidding, let your vehicle’s anti-lock braking system (ABS) do its job and opt for steering versus braking to manage a sliding vehicle. If you find yourself slipping and sliding, never jerk the steering wheel or slam on the brakes – try and stay calm.

What should drivers do if they experience a tire blowout while on the road?

If you’ve experienced a tire blowout, be sure to follow these steps when dealing with a flat. Assess your vehicle by pulling over safely and examining the damage. If the tire is flat, find a levelled area to replace the tire with a spare. Place a jack under the vehicle to lift it off the ground. Use the lug wrench that comes from your jack, turning counter clockwise to remove wheel nuts and replace the flat tire.

What common mistakes do drivers make regarding their vehicles?

Regular preventative maintenance will keep your car operating optimally and prolong its life. A few common mistakes drivers make are ignoring the check engine light, not checking tire pressure, driving with an overheating engine, neglecting wheel alignment, skipping oil changes, not inspecting the brakes, and using worn windshield wipers. Having a complete preventative inspection performed when you do your tire changeover will ensure your vehicle is safe and secure.

How often would you suggest bringing in a vehicle for maintenance?

The best way to keep driving smart and saving money in the long run is by keeping up with regular vehicle maintenance. For example, you should check your shocks and struts after every 80,000 kilometers to ensure your suspension is functioning properly as it may be time to replace them. For oil changes, you need to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation as all makes and models have different schedules. Consistent oil checks, suspension checks and all-around maintenance can prevent expensive repairs down the road.

How much difference can a quality set of tires make on a vehicle?

Like anything you buy, quality and brand name items can be on the pricier end of things. It’s important to purchase quality tires that will last. Factors such as durability, tread, handling, traction, comfort, drag, and noise are what you should consider before making your purchase.

With winter coming soon, make sure to stop by your local OK Tire for a preventative maintenance check.

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