As the seasons change, it’s important to consider what your car needs to perform at its best and to keep you and your family safe. October is Fall Car Care Month, and it’s the perfect time to make sure all of your car’s systems are in order and working great. This article will walk you through the five most important things you need to check before winter sets in.
1. Check Your Brakes
Every driver relies on their brakes to keep them safe, but good brake care is even more important in a cold climate. If your brakes need attention, you may not be able to navigate snowy roads or stop quickly enough to avoid accidents.
If your brakes feel too soft or squeal, it is especially important to have them checked. Soft brakes can mean that your brake fluid has air in it and needs to be “bled”. It can also mean that your brake lines are damaged or that your disc brake calipers, wheel cylinders, or master cylinder need attention.
Squealing brakes can mean that your brake pads are worn down to 25% and need to be replaced. Other reasons for noisy brakes include brake rotor rust. This does not affect the performance of your brakes, but it’s important to have the brakes checked anyway to make sure the noise is not caused by a more serious problem.
2. Check the Tires
Make sure you check your tire tread regularly. If your tread is low, it may mean that your car will not be able to handle ice and snow and your tires may even go flat. Check your own tires by putting a penny head first in several different treads. If you can always see the top of Lincoln’s head, you have less than 2/32 of an inch of tread remaining and it’s time to buy new tires to keep your car as safe as possible.
If you live in a cold climate, it might be a good idea to buy winter tires and have them changed over before the weather turns snowy. Winter tires can give you peace of mind in bad driving conditions.
No matter where you live, always make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure. If your tires are low, your car won’t be able to get the best gas mileage per gallon and you may also get flat tires. It’s easy to use an at-home tire pump that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter or to take your car to a gas station with an air machine.
3. Check under the Hood
It’s always a good idea to check under the hood and make sure everything is connected the way it should be with no cracks, leaks, or worn parts. If you don’t know what to look for, ask your mechanic to show you or check your owner’s manual.
It’s especially important to check the battery before winter rolls around. Sometimes a low battery will work just fine in warmer weather, but will fail when the weather gets colder. Some signs of a battery that needs attention are slow cranking, low battery fluid, and fluid leaks around the contacts. Your mechanic can refill the battery fluid and check the battery to make sure it doesn’t need to be replaced.
4. Make Sure Oil is Changed and Check Fluids
It’s smart to check all of your car’s various fluids and make sure they are clean and topped up. Low or missing fluids can cause damage to your engine and keep your car from performing at its best. Check your brake fluid, power steering fluid, coolant, and windshield washer fluid. If you don’t know where to look, check your owner’s manual or ask your mechanic when you bring your car in for service.
Always make sure you have your car’s oil and filter changed every 3,000 miles or at the interval recommended by the car manufacturer. Clean oil keeps the engine lubricated, cools the engine, improves gas mileage and keeps your car running better longer. Not changing your oil regularly can lead to engine failure and some extremely expensive repairs.
5. Check Heating System and Defroster
Finally, your car’s heating system and defroster need to be checked before you experience any chilly mornings. Try running your heat before you need it and make sure it comes on. Turn the heater to defrost and make sure it comes through; heat that doesn’t work means your engine needs more coolant. The hot engine coolant goes into the heater core and a blower motor sends the heat into the cabin. The heater might not work if the blower motor fails or if there is a stuck valve somewhere in the system. If you don’t have heat and the defroster doesn’t work, take the car to your mechanic to have it checked.
The beginning of fall is a great time to check your car over and make sure everything is working great before winter driving conditions start. Even if you don’t live in a cold climate, it’s important to check all of your car’s systems. Your car will run well, get better gas mileage, and keep your family safer with proper maintenance.