The vacations are over, the kids are back in school and cooler evenings have begun. Take advantage of the lull to prepare your vehicle for the winter ahead. Breakdowns, never convenient, can be dangerous in cold weather.
While safety is an important consideration all year long, there are some maintenance safety checks that are specific to chilled air and winter driving that should be looked into before we’re knee-deep into the season. Douglas Automotive Repair can help make sure you don’t end up a roadside popsicle, or even worse end up with your holiday budget on ice thanks to unexpected repairs.
In addition to the perils of winter driving, the change in weather can bring peril to your car’s systems. Freezing temps, salted roads and wintery precipitation can gang up on your vehicle. First things first, follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedules in your owner’s manual. In addition to making sure your regular maintenance schedule is up-to-date, the change of seasons is a great time to go through some additional maintenance tasks. Here are some things to check to stay out of trouble:
Engine Performance: Have engine driveability problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected. Cold weather will make existing problems worse. Replace dirty filters—air, fuel, PCV, etc.
Oil: Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual more often (every 3,000 miles or so) if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips.
Antifreeze: Your antifreeze is an essential part of your car’s winter protection. The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. (A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water is usually recommended.) If you’re doing your own work, allow the radiator to cool down completely before removing the cap. (Newer vehicles have coolant reservoirs.) The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should also be checked. Give Douglas Automotive Repair a call. We’d be happy to check make sure your cooling system is up to snuff for winter.
Heater/Defroster: The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility. Call us if you’re having problems and would like to have your system checked out.
Tires: The last line of defense between you and the ditch are your tires. Worn tires will be of little use in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressure at least once a month. Believe it or not, they lose a little pressure when it gets cold. Let the tires “cool down” before checking the pressure. Rotate as recommended. Don’t forget your spare, and be sure the jack is in good condition. We’d be happy to check your tires. Douglas Automotive Repair also sells and installs new tires. Give us a call for more information or to get a competitive quote.
Wipers: Replace old blades. Purchase rubber-clad (winter) blades to fight ice build-up. It takes wipers that are in top shape to keep your windshield clean and safe. Stock up on windshield washer solvent—you’ll be surprised how much you use. Carry an ice scraper. Douglas Automotive Repair can check your wipers and replace them if necessary. Call us for more information.
Battery: The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. But do-it-yourselfers can do routine maintenance. Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. A word of caution—be sure to avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves. Note, too, that removal of cables can cause damage or loss of data/codes on some newer vehicles so refer to your manual for instructions. Douglas Automotive Repair can make sure your battery is ready for cold weather—call us today for more information.
Lights: Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses with a moistened cloth or towel. (To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.)
Exhaust System: Your vehicle should be placed on a lift and the exhaust system examined for leaks. The trunk and floorboard should be inspected for small holes. Exhaust fumes can be deadly. Call us today to have your exhaust checked out.
Emergencies: Carry gloves, boots, blankets, flares, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, a flashlight, and a cell phone. Put a few “high-energy” snacks in your glove box.
Douglas Automotive Repair can make sure your vehicle is ready for “old man winter”. Give us a call today to schedule your vehicle inspection. Most of the time, you can wait while we do this—just call ahead to make sure we have a lift open.