Just like spring, fall provides a welcome transition between the significant temperature variations during summer and winter. Temperature extremes are tough on any vehicle, affecting the way it starts and operates. Now is the time to prepare your car for colder weather, by completing the following transitional car care tasks.
1. Start with the lights.
Late model cars have more lights included than ever. There is a chance one or more bulbs has burned out since you last checked your car. Check interior lights on your own in addition to certain exterior lights, including the headlamps and turn signals. However, to verify your brake lights are working, you’ll need a spotter. Many bulbs in around your car are fairly easy to replace.
2. Inspect the tires.
Tires should be rotated on a schedule as outlined in the owner’s manual. Inspect each tire for wear — if the tread wear indicators are showing, replace them in pairs or in sets to ensure even wear. If replacing only two tires, the new set always mounts to the rear axle. Don’t forget to check the condition of your spare and also ensure equipment for changing a tire is in place.
3. Replace worn wiper blades.
Wiper blades are prone to streaking or hazing when it rains or snows. If you’re having difficulty seeing the road, it’s time for new ones.
4. Examine your brakes.
Excessive brake dust on your wheels is one sign your brake pads are worn and need replacement. Another sign is squealing brakes. Examine your brakes every time you rotate your tires and you’ll tackle both tasks concurrently.
Check all fluids to verify sufficient levels and cleanliness. Change the motor oil and oil filter as needed — likewise with the transmission and brake fluids.
Also inspect the cooling system. If the hoses are cracked, swollen or dry, replace as needed. Flush the coolant system per your owner’s manual recommendations.
6. Test the battery.
While you’re under the hood, check the battery. Your car’s battery supplies electric energy to your vehicle. When it’s working, your car will start, enabling you to drive. However, during a cold snap, your battery may not turn over, especially if it’s on the older side. A poorly functioning battery can harm your car’s charging system or starter, further exacerbating a problem. Use a multimeter to check your battery; if it registers 12.6 or above when the engine isn’t running, then it’s operable. Lastly, verify that the connections and cables are clean and tight; replace as needed.
7. Finish with the heater and defroster.
Crank up the heater to ensure a blast of warm air is flowing through the vents. Set the system on defrost to confirm whether the windows are receiving enough air to be cleared. If the front defroster isn’t working there could be any number of problems present, including a stuck button, a blocked fresh air intake or vent, insufficient anti-freeze, a faulty thermostat or a defective heater core. Separately, check the rear defroster — if it isn’t working, then the grid or tabs may have broken or a fuse may need replacement.
Get Ready for Winter
Once you complete these seven transitional car care tasks, you have one final matter to handle: the condition of your car’s emergency kit. Verify that everything is present, including jumper cables, flares, tools and replenish individual items as needed.
Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on transitional car care, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.