WINTER DRIVING CAR CARE TIPS FROM THE PROS
It’s foolhardy to head out in a poorly maintained vehicle in the dead of winter, so don’t get caught unprepared when it suddenly rears its blustery head!
“Regular, routine maintenance can help improve your gasoline mileage, reduce pollution, and catch minor problems before they become big headaches,” says Tony Molla, vice president of communications at the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), an independent group that tests and certifies the competence of auto technicians.
ASE offers these car care tips to give you peace of mind during winter driving:
- Before you do anything else, read your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedules.
- Take note of engine performance and driveability problems — hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc. Get these corrected sooner than later — cold weather makes existing problems worse. Replace dirty filters, such as air, fuel, and PCV. A poorly running engine is less efficient and burns more gasoline.
- As the temperature drops below freezing, add a bottle of fuel deicer in your tank once a month to help keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Keeping the gas tank filled also helps prevent moisture from forming.
- Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual — more often if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips. A poll of ASE Master Auto Technicians revealed that regular oil and filter changes is one of the most frequently neglected services, yet one that is essential to protect your engine.
- The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water is usually recommended. The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses also should be checked regularly by a professional technician.
- The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility.
- Replace old blades regularly. Purchase rubber-clad (winter) blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on windshield washer solvent — you’ll be surprised how much you use during the winter months. And don’t forget to always carry an ice scraper.
- Have your battery checked. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment.
- Inspect all lights and bulbs. Replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag. Clouded lenses can be refinished by many service outlets or by using a DIY kit found in major auto parts outlets.
- Exhaust fumes inside your vehicle’s cabin can be deadly. Have the exhaust system examined for leaks and problems while the vehicle is on a lift. The trunk and floorboards should also be inspected for small holes.
- Worn tires are dangerous in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressure once a month, letting the tires “cool down” before checking the pressure. Rotate as recommended. Don’t forget to check your spare, and be sure the jack is in good working condition. Under-inflated tires or poorly aligned wheels makes your engine work harder and thus use excess gasoline.
- Have your brakes checked periodically for safety and to prevent costly repairs that can be caused by neglect.
- The transmission is often neglected until a major failure. Routine checks and fluid changes at prescribed intervals can prevent very costly repairs down the line.
- Always carry an emergency kit with you: extra gloves, a pair of boots and a blanket; a small shovel and sand or kitty litter; a flashlight and extra batteries; and charging cord for your cell phone. Throw a few “high-energy” snacks in your glove box in case you get stranded.
Take It 2 The House and have our ASE Certified Technicians at House of Mufflers & Brakes check your vehicle out before the snow really flies! Take advantage of our website specials to help you winterize and maintain your car’s safety.