If you live in a part of the country that gets cold weather, you know that winter can be a punishing time for your car. Proper car maintenance can provide some protection, and the time to get started is in the fall. Here’s a car maintenance checklist to help you give your car the support it needs before autumn gives way to winter.
1. Examine the Tires
Your tires provide your car with the traction it needs for safe travel. Tires that are worn or underinflated can pose a safety hazard, and they can also diminish vehicle performance and fuel economy.
Start by using a tread depth gauge to check the tread depth on your car’s tires. If the tread measures 4/32 inches or less, it’s a good idea to replace the tire.
Next, use a gauge to check the tire pressure. Make sure each tire is inflated to the recommended pressure listed inside the car’s door jamb.
You may also want to consider whether your current tires are the best ones for the job. Do you live in a part of the country where the temperature regularly drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter? If so, you may want to switch your current tires for winter tires. Winter tires provide better grip than all-season tires in ice, slush and tightly packed snow.
Your windshield wipers keep your windshield free of precipitation so you can maintain proper visibility. If your wipers’ blades are worn, they won’t be able to do their job.
Check the blades by turning on your car’s wipers and windshield washer. The wipers should leave your windshield clear. If there are streaks or smudges, the blades may need to be replaced.
Inspect the washer fluid while you’re at it. If you currently have a summer blend, replace it with a winter blend that resists freezing.
3. Inspect the Heater
You don’t think about your car’s heater in warm weather, but it’ll be top of mind once winter sets in and you need to raise the cabin temperature.
Turn the heater on to make sure it’s performing as it should. If it’s blowing cold air instead of hot air, you may be dealing with an issue like a clogged heater core or a damaged water pump. The fall season is a good time to take care of any necessary repairs in this area.
4. Don’t Forget About the Brakes
You’ll need your brakes more than ever when you’re traveling on icy roads. Be sure to get your brake system checked at an auto repair shop. This inspection should include the rotors, brake linings and drums.
5. Don’t Overlook the Battery
Cold weather can tax your car’s battery, so it’s important to cruise into the winter season with a healthy one under the hood. Look at the battery connections to make sure they’re securely attached and free of corrosion. If your battery is more than three years old, consider replacing it before winter arrives.
6. Examine the Coolant
Engine coolant helps make sure your car’s engine doesn’t freeze. If the coolant level doesn’t reach the “Full” line on the side of the reservoir, take a few minutes to top it off.
Winter weather can test your car, but by following these tips, you can ensure that your vehicle is in fighting shape for the cold days ahead.
Check out all the car maintenance products available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on fall car maintenance, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
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I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.