The Council recommends the following tasks be performed by a do-it-yourselfer or professional auto technician:
• Check the coolant (antifreeze); coolant should be flushed and refilled every two years in most vehicles.
• Check the owner’s manual to see if your driving habits are considered “severe,” and if so, have the oil changed accordingly, usually every 3,000 miles; consider changing to a “winter weight” oil if you live in a cold climate.
• Check the battery and exhaust system.
• Be certain the heater and defroster are working properly.
• Keep the gas tank at least half full, decreasing the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.
• Check tire tread depth and tire pressure; consider special tires if snow and ice are a problem in your area.
• Check to see that lights work and headlights are properly aimed.
• Replace wiper blades every six months; consider special snow blades if the weather dictates.
• Be prepared for an emergency with the following items in your trunk: ice scraper, windshield de-icer, flashlight, whisk broom, blanket, extra clothes, candle/matches, bottled water, snacks, necessary medications and a first-aid kit.
Engine and cooling system
First, if you’re a Do-It-Yourselfer, get under the hood. Otherwise, visit your friendly automotive technician. Winter only magnifies existing problems like pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling, so make certain the engine is in peak condition. Check the cooling system, too. Coolant should be flushed and refilled every 2 years. Your folks will not necessarily know this, so don’t wait for their nod on this one.
Check the owner’s manual to see if your driving habits are considered to be “severe service.” This type of driving requires more frequent oil changes, warns the Council. Have the oil changed accordingly, usually every 3-5,000 miles. For less wear and tear on the engine, drivers in cold climes (sub-zero driving temperatures) should drop their oil weight from 10-W30 to 5-W30. Your mom and dad would probably suggest simply moving to someplace warmer.
Four other musts
The battery and exhaust system are other “must check” items. These should be examined using professional equipment. Make certain the heater/defroster are working properly and keep the gas tank full. In addition to staying ready for the road, a full fuel tank decreases the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.
Now for the outside of the vehicle: tires, lighting and wipers. Both tire tread and tire pressure should be checked weekly. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. Lights should be inspected regularly. Check to see that bulbs are illuminated, and headlights are properly aimed. Finally, replace wiper blades every six months. Consider special snow blades if the weather dictates.
Even the most meticulously maintained vehicle can develop problems on the road, especially during inclement weather. That’s when it pays to be prepared for an emergency. Tapping the Trunk – Use that big space for something more than a spare tire (which, incidentally should be properly inflated, just in case). Pack items that would be needed if you got stranded for several hours. A cell phone (with a car charger) is a good start. Also include the following: ice scraper, windshield de-icer, flashlight, whisk broom, blanket, extra clothes, candle/matches, bottled water, snacks, needed medication.