The last thing any driver needs is to break down in cold, harsh winter weather. A vehicle check now before winter arrives is a sensible way to be car care aware and avoid the inconvenience of being stranded out in the cold and with the unexpected expense of emergency repairs, says the Car Care Council.
“Winterizing your vehicle before the temperatures drop is a wise idea,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “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 car trouble during severe weather.”
The Car Care Council recommends the following steps for winterizing your vehicle:
If you’re 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.
Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. As a general rule of thumb, this should be done every two years.
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 winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly.
Have the brakes checked. The braking system is the vehicle’s 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.
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. Drivers should check the tire pressure of the spare in the trunk and stock an emergency kit with an ice scraper and snowbrush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, extra clothes, candles/matches, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication.
We’ve compiled our best expert advice, surprising tricks, and car care tips to prolong the life of your automobile!
1. Be patient during the break-in period
You’ve bought your dream car and now you want to make it last at long as possible in top condition. Here are some things to remember as you pull it out of the dealer’s lot:
-During the break-in period, typically the first 1,000 miles (1,600 km), keep your speed under 55 mph (88 kpm) or to the speed recommended by your car’s manufacturer.
-Avoid heavy loads on the drive train, such as towing trailers, and loading the roof rack or trunk with heavy construction materials.
-Do not allow your new car to idle for long periods — this is good advice for the life of your car, but especially during breakin. -The oil pressure generated by doing so may not be sending oil to every part of your engine.
-Use only light to medium acceleration, keeping the engine rpms below 3,000 for the first few hours of driving.
2. Drive with care everyday
Being car considerate shouldn’t stop after the break-in. Drive with care every day and your car will reward you with longer intervals without repair.
-Do not race your car’s engine during start-up.This is a quick way to add years of wear to your engine, especially if it’s cold outside.
-Accelerate slowly when you begin your drive.The most wear to the engine and drive train occurs in the first ten to twenty minutes of operation.
-Warming the engine by letting it idle in the driveway is not a smart idea.The engine doesn’t operate at its peak temperature, resulting in incomplete fuel combustion, soot deposits on cylinder walls, oil contamination, and ultimately damaged components.
-Put less strain on your engine and automatic transmission by shifting to neutral at red lights. Otherwise, the engine is still working to push the car even while it’s stopped.
-Avoid driving at high speeds and accelerating quickly, especially when it’s very hot or very cold outside. Such driving behavior will result in more frequent repairs.
-Extend the life of your tires with careful driving. Observe posted speed limits. Avoid fast starts, stops, and turns. Avoid potholes and objects on the road. Don’t run over curbs or hit the tire against the curb when parking. And, of course, don’t burn rubber.
-When turning your steering wheel, don’t hold it in an extreme right or left position for more than a few seconds. Doing so can damage the power-steering pump.
-Consolidate your short driving trips. Most of the wear and tear — as well as the pollution your car generates — takes place in the first few minutes of driving. Doing several errands at once, during low traffic hours if possible, will keep your engine happier longer.
3. Buy gas at reputable service stations
Ask whether the gas you buy is filtered at the pump and if the station has a policy about changing the pump filters regularly. If you get a song and dance, find another gas station. Some stations don’t have pump filters, making you more vulnerable to dirty gasoline. Other stations may not mix alcohol and fuel properly — or worse, water down their product. Find a station you trust and stick to it.
4. Don’t fill up if you see the tanker
If you happen to see a gasoline tanker filling the tanks at your local gas station, come back another day or go to a different station. As the station’s underground tanks are being filled, the turbulence can stir up sediment. Sediment in your gas can clog fuel filters and fuel injectors, causing poor performance and possibly necessitating repairs.
5. Go easy when you’re stuck
When stuck in mud or snow, don’t make the problem worse by damaging an expensive component. Gently rocking in an attempt to free the car is fine. But if it looks as though you’re really stuck, don’t keep at it. Throwing your car from forward to reverse repeatedly, as well as spinning tires at high speeds, can generate lots of heat and spell trouble for transmissions, clutches, and differentials. It may be cheaper in the long run to call the tow truck rather than risk big repair bills down the road. It’s a good idea to carry a traction aid in the trunk, such as sand, gravel, or cat litter.
6. Lighten up your key chain
Does your car key share a chain with a dozen or more other keys? That’s a pretty heavy load hanging off the car key when it’s in the ignition.The weight, combined with bouncing while you drive, can wear out the tumblers inside the ignition and eventually lead to ignition switch failure.To add years of service to your ignition switch, purchase a lightweight key chain that allows you to separate your ignition key from the others. Drive with only the ignition key in your ignition. If your ignition key “sticks” when you try to turn on the car, it’s a warning that your ignition switch is about to fail. Replace it before you get stranded.
7. Choose a good car insurer
Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, disaster inevitably strikes — typically in the form of an accident. Make sure that your car will be repaired to the best possible standard by finding an insurer that will pay for parts from the original manufacturer and guarantee the repairs it authorizes.
8. Keep an auto log
Keep a pad and pencil in the glove compartment and use them to record your gas fill-ups and mileage. If you notice that your gas mileage worsens, mention it to your service man. It may be an early warning sign that something is wrong with your car.
Then get out the tire-pressure gauge and check that your tires are inflated to the level recommended in your owner’s manual. Summer heat increases the pressure in tires, so test the pressure before driving far. Don’t forget to check your spare as well.
With gas prices so high, the media is awash with lists of gas-saving tips. Well how’s this for a tip? If you listen to us, you can see hybrid-type savings without having to buy a new car.
By changing your driving habits you can improve fuel economy up to 37 percent right away (depending on how you drive). Combine several tips and perform routine maintenance and you will save real dollars, not just pennies.
A miracle? All we did was take several of the most common tips out there and put them to the test over a remote 55-mile route in the high desert of California. Some of them worked like a charm. Some of them didn’t work at all. We’ll give you the breakdown.
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For an accurate reading, check the oil dipstick while the car is turned off and parked on a horizontal plane. If the oil on the dipstick is black or deep red, give us a call. To check the oil level, pull the dipstick out and wipe it clean with a rag, then plunge it back into place. Pull the dip stick out again and hold it horizontally for an accurate reading. Be sure the oil on the stick is just under or right at the correct oil-level line or indicator hole; it should never be over. Putting excess strain on your hard-working car by not changing its oil will lead to trouble.