Fall car care helps stop frosty frustration

December 05, 2008|By METRO SOURCE

Properly preparing your car for winter is simple and doesn't require a lot of time or technical expertise. The payback in reduced risk of a preventable breakdown and improved performance is well worth the minimal effort.

According to the experts at the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), "cold weather will only make existing problems worse."

Here are a few items that are easy and simple to check before fall turns to winter:

First, familiarize yourself with your owner's manual and follow the manufacturers recommended service schedules. No one knows your car better than the company that manufactured it.

Motor oil: The easiest way to protect and improve the performance of your car is to upgrade to a high-performance synthetic motor oil and change it regularly. Synthetic motor oils have better low temperature fluidity and a lower coefficient of friction than mineral-based motor oils. This will help ensure easier start-ups on cold weather days. Some motor oils, such as Royal Purple, are actually formulated with molecules that chemically bond with engine components for continuous engine protection. It's also been proven in independent tests to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and increase horsepower and torque. More information is available at


Tires: Worn tires can be extremely dangerous on rain, snow and ice. Examine tires for remaining tread life and uneven wearing. Be sure to check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks as well. All season radials or winter tires are a wise investment for those who must drive in inclement weather regularly. Check tire pressure should be checked once a month and tires rotated as recommended. Don't forget to check your spare and be sure the jack functions properly.

Cooling System: It may be time for a flush and refill if it's been more than a couple of years since the coolant has been changed. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water is usually recommended. Additionally, the condition of hoses should be checked for cracks and leaks.

Windshield Wipers: Check the condition of your wiper blades and replace them if needed. If your climate is harsh, purchase rubber-clad, winter blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on winter-formula windshield washer solvent. You'll be surprised by how much you use. If you don't have an ice-scraper, buy one before you need it.

Battery: A dead battery can make a cold winter morning a miserable one. If your battery is beyond its recommended service life, replace it. Top any low battery cells with distilled water. Clean and tighten battery terminals to ensure electricity gets from the batter to the starter on chilly fall mornings. If corrosion is present, clean it with a mixture of baking soda and water, and put on a set of battery washers to keep corrosion from coming back. Make sure the battery terminals and hold downs are tight. It's also good to clean and lubricate hinges and the hood latch.

Fuel: It's important to keep gas lines from freezing in cold weather. No vehicle can run if it can't get fuel. A full gas tank will help prevent moisture and ice from forming. Particularly cold weather may warrant using a fuel deicer to prevent fuel lines from freezing. A block heater is another option that is fairly inexpensive and easy to use.

A few minutes in the garage this fall will help prevent a much more time-consuming and unpleasant experience this winter.

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