In my last article I suggested now is the time to ready your home for the upcoming winter. Since there is still warm autumn weather right now it is also a wonderful time to prepare your vehicle for the upcoming winter blasts. Nothing is worse than experiencing car trouble in the bitter cold or snow.
Don’t be afraid! You can perform some basic auto maintenance steps to protect you and your car from the clutches of Old Man Winter. Referring to your owner’s manual or even watching YouTube videos can give valuable “how-to” information, making it much easier than you may imagine. If you do have qualms about it, take your car to an auto professional you can trust.
Take a look under the hood:
• First, check your battery. It is a heart-sinking feeling when you turn the key during the winter, and nothing happens. It’s probably a battery problem. Check for corrosion and deposits and clean them if they are dirty. Also make sure the cables are tight. Check your battery’s charge-holding capability (most auto parts stores will do this for free and if needed, will often install the new battery for free as well).
• While the hood is up, check hoses and belts to make sure they are not cracked, brittle, or showing signs of excessive wear.
• Also check your fluids while under the hood. Check your owner’s manual for correct levels for your engine oil, power steering, brake, and transmission fluids. Top off your antifreeze/coolant as well as windshield washer solvent levels, too.
Do these things on the exterior of your car:
• Check your tire pressure first. Nothing is worse than a flat tire or lack of traction in the winter. Refer to your owner’s manual for correct tire pressures and fill them up at a gas station if they need air, Tire gauges are inexpensive at the local auto store – just a couple bucks. Also check your tire treads’ depth. Place 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.
• A faulty exhaust system is very dangerous. Exhaust leaks must be corrected immediately to protect you from deadly carbon monoxide fumes. Look under the car for any rust, damage, broken hangers or supports, especially if you hear unusual noises
• Make sure your wipers will cleanly sweep away the mud and slush that is thrown on your windshield. Replacing worn blades will help you clearly see when driving in dark, wet, and dreary winter conditions.
• It is critically important your headlights shine brightly. They need to illuminate the road and any hazards, as well as alert oncoming traffic you are headed their way. Cloudy headlight lens can be renewed by purchasing a restoration kit at the auto parts store for a few bucks. According to the experts, doing so can increase your car’s light output to about 70% of that of new lights.
We also recommend having a box of emergency supplies in your trunk, so you will be ready to deal with a winter breakdown and avoid getting frostbite or worse! This is particularly true for those of you that live or drive through rural and sparsely populated areas where being stuck in a blizzard could cost you your life. 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. Add another layer of protection by having a fully charged cell phone for 911 calls.
Be safe out there!
Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at bbb.org/us/oh/lima.