Preparing for the winter does not just affect your wardrobe. Winter weather provides additional safety concerns. This is especially true when it comes to your car. The fall is the best time to prepare for winter weather. Below are several important things you should cover in your fall maintenance. Some may require a professional technician, but many you can do yourself with little to no cost.
Check the terminals and posts for corrosion. Make sure they are secured too. AAA recommends you have the battery and charging system checked as well. A trained technician should do this part for you. In winter weather, a fully charged battery is necessary to start your engine. Be sure to replace your battery if needed to ensure your car starts in any situation. Being stranded in your vehicle the freezing cold is unpleasant. Being stranded in a car that will not start in the freezing cold is even worse.
For those who are not mechanically inclined, the engine may seem like a scary thing. However, much of your engine can be easily examined and maintained with a few tips.
Air Filter: The condition of the air filter is quick and easy to determine. Remove it and look through it at a 60-watt light bulb. If a light is visible, the air filter is good. If the light is blocked out, it is time to replace your air filter.
Drive Belt: When it comes to the drive belt, a visual inspection can quickly determine its state. Look for any cracks and frays in the belt. Be sure to rotate the belt manually to view all sides. If you note any cracks, consider visiting a professional for replacement.
Hoses: The hoses that support your engine’s cooling system can also be visually inspected. Check them for cracks and leaks. Be sure to tighten them should you notice they are loose. Gently squeezing these hoses can tell you a lot as well. Hoses that feel brittle or spongy likely need to be replaced.
Your car contains many fluids. More than you may realize. Be sure to check all of them before the winter sets in. For your coolant, check levels while the engine is cold. Coolant contains antifreeze. Be sure to add a 50/50 mixture of water and coolant to ensure your antifreeze levels remain optimal. (Auto-part stores often sell inexpensive testers if you are unsure.) Washer fluids should also have antifreeze in them if you live in a zone that has snowy or icy conditions. Verify that your washer, transmission, brake and power steering fluids are all at safe levels.
Your tire type, tread, and pressure should all be checked prior to winter. Winter tires provide the best grip during the colder months. However, having the right tread depth is vital. Whether you have all-season tires or winter ones, make sure your tread is at least 3/32” thick. (You can quickly check this with a penny. Insert your penny with Lincoln facing you, head down. If the tread ends before reaching the top of Lincoln’s head, you need new tires. If it goes above his head, your treads are good.) Be sure to check your car’s manual for proper tire pressures. In general, tire pressure decreases in the cold (typically 1 PSI for every 10 degrees).
Brakes: A professional may have to help on this. Be sure to check your brakes. If you have heard any squealing or grinding noises, your brake pads may have become too worn. Stopping your car is important in any season. However, it becomes increasingly important in winter conditions. Aside from physical noises, a professional can inspect your brake pads and replace them before it is too late.
Emergency Kits: Every owner should carry an emergency kit in his or her vehicle. This is particularly true during the window. Dangerous conditions increase the likelihood of incidents. Being prepared can save your life.
Lights: Makes sure all of your lights are in working order. Ice and snow can make stopping harder. In inclement weather, your lights serve as bright designators that let other drivers know where you are.