September Project: How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

Giving your car a little attention this fall will pay dividends once the cold weather arrives. By completing preventative maintenance tasks, you can realize longer vehicle life, increased gas mileage and even better re-sale value. Below, you'll find different categories highlighted and what you should do under each category. These are basic tips to get your started, but first, you should read your owner's manual and see what your manufacturer recommends as fair as regular maintenance.

Engine Performance
Allow a trusted, good repair shop to check out driveability issues – hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power – as cold whether will simply magnify any problems. You could also replace filters – air, fuel, oil, etc.

Fuel
You could stock a bottle of fuel de-icer in your car and add it when you fill your car with gas. If you do this once a month, it will help keep moisture from forming in the fuel line. Moisture will not form in full gas tanks, so if you want to keep your tank mostly full all winter, you could prevent build-up without the fuel de-icer.

Oil
Read the manual for recommendations on this, but typically an oil change every 3,000 miles is advised. If you run short trips or do stop-and-go driving, you may want to change your oil more often.

Cooling System
As recommended, flush and refill your coolant system. When you pull in for an oil change, they should check your fluid level, the condition and concentration. If you're checking your own fluid, allow the radiator to cool before removing the cap. The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a certified auto technician.

Heater/Defroster
Check the heater and defroster because these are extremely important when it comes to comfort and safety. You want your car to warm up in a reasonable time, and you also want to keep frost off the windshield to maintain good visibility.

Windshield Wipers
Aside from having an ice scraper, you can purchase rubber-clad blades to fight ice build-up. You should also use windshield washer fluid liberally throughout the winter, so stock up on some now.

Battery
You will need professional equipment to test the strength of a battery; however, you can scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections. You can also clean all surfaces and check all connections (tighten if necessary). When doing this, you should wear eye protection and rubber gloves to avoid contact with the corrosive deposits and battery acid. Before removing cables, you should also refer to your owner's manual.

Lights
Check your lights and replace burned out bulbs. You can also clean the headlights, but make sure you use a damp rag.

Exhaust System
If you suspect an issue, have your exhaust system inspected for leaks at an auto repair shop. They should also inspect the trunk and floorboards for holes.

Tires
Worn tires are not effective in winter weather. The roads are already slick most of the time, and if you have fairly bald tires, you won't maintain a solid connection between your car and the road. You can examine the tires for uneven wearing, cupping, cuts and nicks. Check your tire pressure once a month, but let them cool down before doing so.

Look at your owner's manual, but typically it's recommended that you rotate your tires every other oil change.

Those are just some important areas to check out, and your auto repair place may have other recommendations. A little time now could save you a great hassle over the tough winter. In addition to car maintenance, you should also prepare for emergencies by carrying boots, gloves, blankets, flares, a flashligh and cell phone in your car. Sometimes the unexpected happens, and you want to be ready.

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