Spiffy’s Tips: Keep It Clean!
Preventative maintenance now can help ensure worry-free driving this fall and throughout the winter
The vacations are over, the kids are back in school and cooler days are on their way! Take advantage of the lull to prepare your vehicle for the the fall and winter seasons ahead. Breakdowns, though never convenient, can be even more dangerous when the weather gets cooler or downright cold.
The following tips from non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) should give all drivers a road map to fall car care.
First things first
Read your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedules. There are usually two schedules listed: normal and severe.
Keep the Leaves On Your Car Removed
If not addressed immediately, you will discover that autumn leaves damage car paint, as sap and chemicals leech into the finish. Try to avoid this problem by frequently removing all leaves from the surface of your car. As leaves decompose they release tannic acid, sap and other chemicals onto your car’s surface. Throughout the season, plan to wash your car regularly. And, having your car waxed after it’s just been freshly washed is a good time to have a coat of wax applied.
Car Engine Performance
Have engine driveability problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a good repair shop. Cold weather will make existing problems worse. Replace dirty filtersair, fuel, PCV, etc.
Oil Changes & Service
Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual more often (every 3,000 miles or so) if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips.
Car Cooling System
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 anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.) If you’re doing your own work, allow the radiator to cool down completely before removing the cap. (Newer vehicles have coolant reservoirs.) The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a certified auto technician.
Vehicle Heater & Defroster
The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility.
Replace old blades. If your climate is harsh, purchase rubber-clad (winter) blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on windshield washer solvent you’ll be surprised how much you use. Carry an ice-scraper.
The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. But do-it-yourselfers can do routine maintenance. Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly.
A word of caution:
Be sure to avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves. Note too that removal of cables can cause damage or loss of data/codes on some newer vehicles so refer to your manual for instructions.
Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses with a moistened cloth or towel. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
Car Exhaust System
Your vehicle should be placed on a lift and the exhaust system examined for leaks. The trunk and floorboards should be inspected for small holes. Exhaust fumes can be deadly.
Worn tires will be of little use 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. Let the tires “cool down” before checking the pressure. Rotate as recommended. Don’t forget your spare, and be sure the jack is in good condition.
Stay Ready for Automotive Emergencies
Carry gloves, boots, blankets, flares, sand or kitty litter, tire chains in Winter, a flashlight, and a cell phone. Put a few “high-energy” snacks in your glove box.