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Car Maintenance >> Fall-Winter

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Give Your Car a Checkup for the Cold Weather Ahead

(NUI) - Automobile breakdowns in winter storms can be deadly. As the busy winter driving season approaches, don't forget to take your car in for routine maintenance.

Those who live in warmer climates also reap the benefits of periodic maintenance: longer vehicle life, better gas mileage and the ability to spot and fix minor problems early and possibly avoid costly future repairs.

Here are some time-tested tips from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, a nonprofit organization that tests and certifies automotive technicians.

* Read your owner's manual and follow the manufacturer's recommended service schedules.

* Get problems such as hard starts, rough idling, stalling and diminished power corrected at a good repair shop. Cold weather will make existing problems worse. While there, ask the shop to replace all dirty filters.

* Put a bottle of fuel de-icer in your tank once a month to help keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Keep the gas tank filled to help prevent moisture from forming.

* Change the oil and oil filter as specified in your manual, and more often - every 3,000 miles or so - if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips.

* The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. Check the level, condition and concentration of the coolant periodically. A certified auto technician also should check the tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps and hoses.

* Make sure the heater and defroster are in good working condition.

* For routine battery care, scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections, clean all surfaces, and re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. Note that removal of cables can cause damage or loss of data on some newer vehicles, so check your manual. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves to avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid.

* Have your vehicle's exhaust system examined for leaks and the trunk and floorboards inspected for small holes.

* Examine the tires for remaining tread life and uneven wearing. Check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Remember to check the tire pressure once a month (let the tires "cool down" before checking the pressure) and rotate them as recommended. Don't forget to check the spare and make sure the jack is in good condition.

For more information and tips, visit www.ase.com.





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