10 fall vehicle maintenance tips
With summer well behind us, it’s time to get your vehicle ready for the colder months.
Keeping on top of maintenance is the best way to ensure there’s no nasty surprises and to keep your vehicle in the best running condition. Dealerships, quick lube places and auto repair shops often offer a fall or winter checkup package. That’s the simplest way, but some of these tasks you can take care of yourself.
Lack of maintenance is one of the most common reasons for mechanical breakdowns. Avoid potential problems with these tips:
1) Change oil/check fluids – Make sure the various fluids that lubricate, cool or perform other functions are at proper levels. This includes things such as engine oil, coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluids and more. It’s a vital part of your car care routine. If you’re not sure when your next oil change is, check your owner’s manual. If it looks dirty, it’s time to change it.
2) Replace wipers – Fall means more precipitation. If the wipers are leaving streaks on the windshield they either need to be replaced or cleaned. A new set of quality wipers will improve your visibility and help keep you and other drivers around you safe. Also consider changing the washer fluid to a winter blend which is designed to resist freezing.
3) Test battery – Batteries typically last about five years. Have your battery tested by a technician and, if necessary, replace it. Some batteries are corroded and others have loose cables. If not addressed, it can lead to a variety of electrical problems. If you are planning to store your vehicle for the winter, you may want to invest in a trickle charger which is a car battery charger designed to be left on a car for a long period of time. It slowly adds the charge to the battery and does not allow for the normal depletion of charge.
4) Check headlights: As the days become shorter, your headlights matter even more. Walk around your vehicle with the lights on and check that headlights, taillights, parking lights, brakes lights, emergency flashers and interior lights are working. Replace burnt out bulbs. Headlights can become cloudy or hazy with age – especially on vehicles that are parked outside. Cloudy lenses reduce night vision and the effectiveness of headlights by up to 80 per cent. If you notice it, purchase an inexpensive headlight restoration kit from an auto supply store to fix the problem.
5) Examine tires: Tires affect the braking ability, handling performance, and overall safety of your vehicle. Check the tire pressure with a dedicated gauge. Ensure that the tires are properly inflated to the specification listed on the placard inside the door jamb. Next, check the tread depth. This can tell you if tires need replacement. If they have less than 1/8-inch of tread left, it’s time to buy new ones.
6) Inspect brakes - Your mechanic should check the brakes a least twice a year and it’s a good idea to do so before the snow flies. Worn brake pads can cause damage to other parts, which could result in more expensive repairs.
7) Test heater/defroster – Make sure your vehicle’s heater is working before temperatures start to drop. If it is blowing cold air, you likely have a problem somewhere within the cooling system and need repairs. Also make sure your front and rear defroster are in working order before you need them.
8) Replace air filter: Air filters should be replaced twice a year and it’s a good time to replace them before winter. If your filter is blocked it contributes to restricted airflow and can affect your fuel economy, performance and vehicle emissions.
9) Give it a wash - Clean up your car so that winter's mess doesn't land on top of summer's dirt. If you want to go further than a car wash, wax it. Don’t ignore the inside either. Fall is the perfect time to vacuum out the inside, clean mats and remove any garbage.
10) Replenish emergency kit – If you carry a kit in your vehicle, make sure supplies have not been depleted. With the colder weather approaching, an ice scraper/snow brush, road salt and warm blanket are must haves. If you don’t have a kit, purchase one online or at an automotive supply store so you’re prepared should emergencies arise.
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