The last thing any of us need is to break down in harsh winter weather. An hour of your time now could help prevent a breakdown or accident and save on repair costs and gas in the bargain. Here are some tips from the nonprofit Car Care Council to keep your car running well in winter:
- Cold weather is hard on batteries, so have the battery and charging system checked for optimum performance.
- Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. As a general rule of thumb, this should be done every two years.
- Make sure heaters and defrosters and wipers work properly.
- Be sure your navigation system is up to date, to avoid getting lost on unfamiliar roads or delayed by road construction.
- Check wiper blades for cracks, stiffness or other signs of aging. As a general rule, wiper blades should be replaced every six months.
- Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly — and that includes the spare.
- Dirty oil can spell trouble in winter weather, so be diligent about changing the oil and filter at recommended intervals. Consider changing to “winter weight” oil if you live in a cold climate. Have your technician check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time.
- If you’re due for a tune-up, do it now, before the worst of the winter weather or holiday driving trips. Winter magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling.
- Have the brakes checked. The braking system is the vehicle’s most important safety item.
- Have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed.
- Check to see that exterior and interior lights work and that headlights are properly aimed, and clean.
Finally, keep the gas tank at least half full at all times to minimize chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing. Make sure you have an emergency kit, with an ice scraper and snowbrush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, extra clothes, candles/matches, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication.
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