Top 10 Fall & Winter Car Care Tips
Old Man Winter can be one merciless son of a gun and like it or not, he’s headed our way. He’s notoriously tough on vehicles and while there’s no way to completely guarantee a breakdown free cold weather season, we’ve assembled a few tips that should help stack the odds in your favor. A fast and efficient way to make sure your car is ready and rarin’ to go for the season is to schedule a service appointment with a CarSoup.com dealer. Read on and prepare!
- Give it a Bath — Before it gets too cold, give your vehicle a thorough bath. Pay particular attention to spots where organic debris such as leaves can accumulate. Once dry, use a cleaning clay or polishing compound to remove any light stains. Finally, apply a coat of wax or synthetic sealant to protect the finish.
- Clean the Interior — Give your vehicle’s interior the same care you gave the outside. To offset the dry, damaging effect of cold air, treat any leather surfaces with a conditioning product. Thoroughly vacuum the interior, paying particular attention to nooks and crannies where dirt, gravel and stray French fries can hide. Clean the floor mats, and consider replacing them with ones designed to catch winter slush.
- Test the Battery — Battery health goes far beyond voltage; it’s really all about load. A battery can have proper voltage according to a voltmeter but fail when a load is placed on it. If you have a load tester, perform your own check; otherwise, most auto service centers and parts stores will be happy to do a quick load test for you.
- Change the Oil — Your vehicle’s engine has seen lot of wear and tear over the summer, and nothing damages oil more than heat. Change the oil, and in particularly harsh climates, consider swapping heavier summer-weight oil with a lighter-weight viscosity suited for winter driving.
- Check the Brakes — Winter road conditions can wreck havoc on automotive braking systems, and the last thing you want is a brake failure in slippery situations. To prevent mishaps, make sure that the brake pads, shoes, rotors and drums are in good shape.
- Inspect the Tires — If your tires have less than 4/32 inch of tread, they’re probably not safe for winter travel. Not sure? Give Honest Abe a break and instead rely on George Washington. Insert a quarter upside down into the tread, and if the tread touches Washington’s head, you’re good to go. If you live in areas that receive a lot of snowfall, consider investing in a set of winter/snow tires.
- Check the Cooling System — While many newer cars are outfitted with coolant rated for up to 5 years or 150,000 of travel that doesn’t necessitate seasonal flushing, older models can benefit from this simple maintenance step. If nothing else, eyeball the cooling levels to make sure that nothing needs to be topped off. To check the efficacy of the coolant, purchase an inexpensive antifreeze tester from your local car parts store.
- Change the Wiper Blades — Now’s the perfect time to replace worn-out rubber. If your car still has the older frame-style wiper blades, swap them for the new beam style–with no external parts, there’s nothing to catch snow or ice. In regions that receive heavy snowfall, splurge on rubber-encased winter blades; they may not be as stylish, but they’ll do a great job at clearing snow.
- Check Headlights — Before it gets too cold to easily remove plastic parts and not risk them breaking due to the frigid temps, make sure your car’s headlights are working. Think beyond the bulbs, and inspect the lenses–if they appear cloudy, polish them with a headlight polishing kit available at most auto parts stores. Obviously, it’s important to be able to see clearly but it’s equally important to be seen so while you’re at it check your brake lights, running lights and turn signals, too.
- Check Belts, Hoses and Fluids — Inspect all the belts and hoses, looking for any checking, cracking or stretching. If you find damage, have the part replaced. Top off all other fluids as needed. In the case of washer fluid, make sure to use one that’s rated for winter use–summer fluid can freeze and damage your vehicle’s washer system.