The last thing any driver needs is to break down in the cold, harsh winter weather. A vehicle check now before winter arrives is a sensible way to avoid the inconvenience of being stranded out in the cold and with the unexpected expense of emergency repairs, says Auto Repair Help.US.
“Winterizing your vehicle before the temperatures drop is a wise idea,” said Lee Davidian, Sr., owner operator of Auto Repair Help.US. “An investment of an hour or two to have your vehicle checked is all it takes to have peace of mind and help avoid the cost and hassle of vehicle trouble during severe weather.”
Auto Repair Help.US recommends the following steps for winterizing your vehicle:
- If you are due for a tune-up, have it done before winter sets in. Winter magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling.
- Have the battery and charging system checked for optimum performance. Cold weather is hard on batteries. A voltage reading of 14.3 to 14.7 is typically what is considered the norm for the charging system. So compare your readings from the starter and charging test performed on your car or truck.
- Have your engine belts inspected – When a drive belt breaks, for example, the alternator is no longer charging battery and supplying current to accessories.
Timing belt (s). This is very important and must be done at the interval the manufacturer has suggested. Otherwise, permanent engine damage may result. The cold weather is especially hard on a cold engine during start up.
- Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. As a general rule of thumb, this should be done every two years. A mixture of 50% antifreeze (coolant) and 50%water inside your radiator is crucial. This will prevent the mixture from freezing even at ridiculously cold temperatures. It is easy to check the status of the mixture with an inexpensive antifreeze tester, which you can pick up at any auto parts store. If the mixture is off, your cooling system should be drained and refilled or flushed. Be sure you are equipped to dispose of your old antifreeze properly if you do this job yourself. It cannot just be poured down the drain.
- Make sure heaters, defrosters and wipers work properly. Consider winter wiper blades and use cold weather washer fluid. As a general rule, wiper blades should be replaced every six months.
- Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During the winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly. Remember, check tires Cold, not Hot; meaning if you came off the highway after driving awhile tire pressure will rise. So if you let the air out of tire thinking you have too much, the next morning you will have a low tire. You can generally expect that you’ll lose 1 pound per square inch whenever the temperature drops by 10 degrees Fahrenheit.) Again, your trusty owner’s manual will tell you what your target tire pressure should be.
- Have the brakes checked. The braking system is the vehicle is most important safety item.
- Have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed.
- Check to see that exterior and interior lights work and headlights are properly aimed.
- Be diligent about changing the oil and filter at recommended intervals. Dirty oil can spell trouble in winter. Consider changing to “winter weight” oil if you live in a cold climate. Have your technician check the fuel,air and transmission filters at the same time. Plus, have the Positive Crankcase Valve (PCV) checked as well.
- Motorists should also keep the gas tank at least half full at all times to decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing. A good prevention to rid moisture and gas lines from freezing up is to use isopropanol antifreeze. Drivers should check the tire pressure of the spare in the trunk and stock an emergency. Prepare an emergency kit. Store this stuff in your trunk during the winter months, especially if a road trip is in your future:
- a blanket, extra boots and gloves, an extra set of warm clothes, extra water and food, including hard candies, an ice scraper, a small shovel, a flashlight, windshield washer fluid, windshield wipers, flares, jumper cables, a tool kit, tire chains, a tire gauge, a spare tire with air in it, tire-changing equipment, a first-aid kit, paper towels, a bag of abrasive material such as sand, salt or non-clumping kitty litter, which can provide additional traction if a tire gets stuck in snow.