Winter weather means different things to different people. But whether snow, sleet, wind, rain or hail is in your future this winter, it’s a good time to run some do-it-yourself maintenance checks on your car or truck. So says AAA, who, since the 1980’s deemed October as Car Care Month.
John Nielsen, director, AAA Automotive Engineering and Repair says it’s an important time to find issues before they become emergencies. “Properly preparing your vehicle for the next season of driving is essential for the safety of all passengers and will greatly decrease the chances of your vehicle letting you down.”
The most basic car maintenance usually means checking your oil levels, tires, battery and wiper blades. The cost to fix any issues will probably be minimal up front, yet checking for problems now can save you major expense down the road. But there are other things you can check out before taking the car to a certified technician.
The experts at AAA suggest this checklist could take you less than an hour to perform, so why not take a walk around your car, open the hood and check it out?
Do-It-Yourself Car Care Checklist
Battery Cables and Terminals – Make sure the battery terminals and cable ends are free from corrosion and the connections are tight.
Drive Belts – Inspect the underside of accessory drive belts for cracks or fraying. Many newer multi-rib “serpentine” belts are made of materials that do not show obvious signs of wear; replace these belts at 60,000-mile intervals.
Engine Hoses – Inspect cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses and replace any that are brittle or excessively spongy feeling.
Tire Type and Tread – In areas with heavy winter weather, installing snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. All-season tires work well in light-to -moderate snow conditions provided they have adequate tread depth. Replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread. Uneven tire wear can indicate alignment, wheel balance or suspension problems that must be addressed to prevent further tire damage.
Tire Pressure – Check tire inflation pressure on all four tires and the spare more frequently in fall and winter. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb.
Air Filter – Remove the air filter and hold it up to a 60-watt light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.
Coolant Levels – Check the coolant level in the overflow tank when the engine is cold. If the level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. Test the antifreeze protection level annually with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.
Lights – Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs.
Wiper Blades – The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots. In areas with snow, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup that can prevent good contact between the blade and the glass.
Washer Fluid – Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components to prevent it from freezing.
Brakes – If there is any indication of a brake problem, have the system inspected by a certified technician to ensure all components are in good working order.
Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids – Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels.
If you’re a card-carrying AAA member, look for AAA Service Specialists to get a free maintenance check and estimate, a guarantee for one year on the parts and labor and a 10% discount on any work they do for you. But be aware that on many new cars, some maintenance needs to be done by the manufacturer’s dealer service department to maintain the car’s warranty.
Simple regular maintenance on your car can make the difference between breakdowns and reliability – especially in the winter months. When summer’s road trips are over, it’s the best time to check out the wear and tear and get ready to face the winter months with a more reliable car.