October is National Fall Car Care Month. In my last article I recommended that fall would be a great time to prepare your home for the upcoming winter season. The warm weather of early fall is also the perfect time to prepare your vehicle for the upcoming harshness of the winter season. Snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures often introduce many problems for your car’s safe and efficient operation.
Here are some basic fall maintenance steps you can perform to keep your car from the clutches of Old Man Winter. Don’t be afraid! Referring to your car’s owner’s manual or even watching YouTube videos can give invaluable how-to information about carrying out the process. If you have qualms about it, take your car to an auto professional you can trust.
Pop the hood and check these things out:
• Check your battery - Nothing is more dismaying than turning the key and nothing happens. Normally it’s a battery problem. Look for corrosion and deposits. Clean them if they’re dirty. Make sure the cables are tight. Batteries have an average life of 3 to 5 years. Most auto parts stores will check your battery’s viability for free. If a new one is needed, they will often install it for free as well.
• Check hoses and belts - While you have the hood up inspect the belts and hoses to make sure they’re not cracked, brittle, or showing signs of excessive wear.
• Check your fluids - Be sure your engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission fluids are at correct levels. Look at your antifreeze/coolant as well as windshield washer solvent levels and top them off if needed.
Check these things on the exterior of your car:
• Check your tires - Check your tire pressure first. Refer to your owner’s manual for the correct pressure. You can purchase a tire gauge at a local auto store for a couple bucks. If your tires need air, fill them up at a gas station. Next look at your tire treads’ depth by placing a penny into the tread grooves with Lincoln’s head pointing down. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tires should be replaced soon. Also check for uneven tread wear, bulges and bald spots.
• Check windshield wipers - Make sure your wipers will cleanly sweep away the mud and slush that is thrown on your windshield. Replace worn blades so you can clearly see when driving in dark, dreary, difficult winter conditions.
• Look at your headlights - It’s critical for your headlights to shine brightly. Not only do they need to illuminate the road and any hazards, but also alert oncoming traffic that you’re headed their way. If your headlights are cloudy, you can purchase a lens restoration kit at your local auto parts store for a few bucks. This action can return your light output to about 70% of new lights.
• Inspect exhaust system - Look under the car and look for any rust, damage, broken hangers or supports if you hear unusual noises. Exhaust leaks must be corrected immediately to protect you from deadly carbon monoxide fumes.
Finally, doing the maintenance steps above are useful when operating a motor vehicle in the winter, but for your personal safety we recommend having a box of winter supplies in your trunk in case something goes wrong when traveling on cold winter day. Include things such as a first aid kit, flashlight, a couple blankets, extra gloves, and some high energy snacks such as jerky or granola bars. A fully charged cell phone for 911 calls also adds a layer of protection.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.