A few preventive vehicle maintenance steps can help keep you from being stranded in severe weather:
• Check the battery and charging system for optimum performance. Cold weather is hard on batteries.
• Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. As a general rule of thumb, this should be done every two years.
• Make sure heaters, defrosters and wipers work properly. Consider winter wiper blades and use cold-weather washer fluid. Typically, wiper blades should be replaced every six months.
• If you’re due for a tune-up, have it done soon. Cold weather magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance and rough idling.
• Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. If you’ll be driving in snow and ice, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During cold weather, check tire pressure weekly.
• Check the brakes. The braking system is the vehicle’s most important safety component.
• Inspect the exhaust system for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous if you’ll be driving with the windows closed.
• Check to see that exterior and interior lights work and headlights are properly aimed.
• Be diligent about changing the oil at recommended intervals as dirty oil can spell trouble. Consider changing to “winter weight” oil. Check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time.
• Keep the gas tank at least half full at all times to decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.
• Check the tire pressure of the spare in the trunk.
• Stock an emergency kit with an ice scraper and snow brush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, extra clothes, candles, matches, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication.
That’s the advice from the experts at the Car Care Council, the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers.
For a free copy of the council’s “Car Care Guide” or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.