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Fall Maintenance

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On: Mon, Oct 3, 2011 at 5:22PM | By: Peter C Sessler

Fall Maintenance

There’s no doubt about it, the fall weather is here and it’s only going to get worse. Not to worry though—your car is running fine and it’s unlikely that it’ll breakdown, right? It has been estimated that over five million breakdowns could be avoided each year if car owners would simply take the time to visually inspect their tires, belts, and hoses, etc. Although they’ve been covered before, I’ll go over them once again—five million is quite a big number!

Battery: The cold can reduce your battery’s efficiency by 50 percent or more. If your battery is over three years old you’re probably due for a new one. Batteries are pretty cheap and it really doesn’t pay to nurse your old one along for another season. Have it tested, replace it, and clean the cable ends, and while you’re at it, have you thought about keeping a set of jumper cables in your trunk for emergencies? You never know!

Oil: Oil that hasn’t been changed in a while makes it harder for the starter to turn the engine over. If your owner’s manual indicates a lighter oil for winter use, change your oil (and filter) accordingly. Otherwise, a 5W-30 oil is fine for most cars. Of course, your engine will thank you if you use a synthetic oil that has superior cold temperature flow.

Lights: This one should be easy—turn on your car’s lights, and then do a walk-around, noting if they are all working. If not, replace any bulb that doesn’t work.

Heater: This is important. Turn your heater on and check that hot air is blowing thought the vents. If it doesn’t, perhaps the heater core is plugged up or some other problem is evident. You don’t want to turn on the heater for the first time during a cold snap and find out your heater just blows cold air!

Tires: If you like sliding around, then stick with tires that are on their way out. Once you get below 50 percent tread, your tires lose much of their traction—at least when it comes to snow. Uneven wear is also an indicator of alignment, suspension, or wheel balance problems, and remember that for every ten-degree drop in outside temperature, tires lose about one pound of pressure. Check your tire pressure at least twice a month.

Belts and Hoses: Belts and hoses are pretty durable and it’s unlikely for them to just fail all of a sudden. Instead, they deteriorate slowly. Worn belts will have numerous small cracks, while hoses that are going bad will be swollen and hard. These are easy to check.

Wipers: They don’t get better with age so just change them now—especially if they are over a year old. While you’re at it, fill the windshield washer reservoir and keep a container of washer fluid in your trunk.

Antifreeze: Get one of those inexpensive antifreeze testers to check if the antifreeze is still good. If it is, just top off the radiator, fill the overflow tank to the correct level, and forget about it. If not, have it changed.

Exhaust System: An exhaust system leak can be deadly. Have your system checked for perforated exhaust pipes and rusted out mufflers.

Emergency Kit: At the very minimum, you should carry the following items in your car: jumper cables, flashlight, a can of fix-a-flat, simple hand tools, an ice scraper/snow brush, windshield washer fluid, a first-aid kit, and a container of drinking water. You may also want to include snack items, gloves, a blanket, and perhaps a bag of cat litter or sand—for added weight/traction.

These are all simple common sense precautions that should be addressed now while the weather is still relatively good. It might seem unlikely, but it can snow anytime now! And finally, as a general rule, try to keep your gas tank full or as close to full as possible at all times.


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