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Sunday, September 23, 2012

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When the weather starts to change and summer is coming to an end, the last thing on your mind is your car. With the possibility of snow and ice on the horizon though, making sure your car is in top shape is critical to avoid being stranded on the side of the road in the cold! Here are 10 helpful tips to winterize your car and make sure your ready for the harsh weather ahead.

1. Change your oil

If you're due for an oil change, now is the time to get one. Make sure your using the right kind of oil for your car and double-check the owner's manual to make sure there aren't any special considerations for winter time. Some engines use different viscosities of oil depending on the time of year. Oil tends to thicken as the temperature drops which could leave your engine under-lubricated if you use the wrong type of oil.

2. Get a tune up

Making sure your car is properly tuned up is important all year-long. In the winter time, this is especially important to prevent cold morning headaches. Your car's electrical system, including spark plugs, wires, etc., is crucial for making sure your engine fires right up on a cold winter morning. Take the time to make sure this is one headache you won't have to worry about this year.

3. Get your battery checked

Cold weather and batteries don't mix. When the temperature drops, a worn battery can quickly become a dead battery leaving you stranded. Stop by your local auto parts store and have them check your battery to make sure it will last through the winter. If there is any trouble, pick one up while you're there, most places will put it in for you free of charge. Keep the terminals free of corrosion and you should have no worries.

4. Check the radiator fluid

Have your cooling system checked for leaks, and make sure to fill it with the proper antifreeze type and mixture to protect your engine during the harsh winter months. Proper levels of antifreeze are needed for your heating system to work properly as well as to protect your engine from overheating and leaving you stuck on the side of the road. Replace worn hoses, fix small leaks, and make sure everything is in good working order.

5. Adjust your tire pressure regularly

Keeping your tires properly inflated is important all year-long. Properly inflated tires reduce gas mileage and wear on your tires. In the winter months, properly inflated tires help maintain traction with the road. Snow, ice, and wet conditions all make traction difficult. Cold weather also hardens the rubber on your tires making slippery conditions all the more dangerous. Take the time once a month to inflate your tires to the recommended pressure. Use a tire gauge and check the owner's manual or the sticker on your car for proper pressure guidelines.

6. Considering changing to snow tires

If you live in an area with considerable snow fall or you're worried about the safety of inexperienced drivers, you may consider switching to snow tires. Designed for the harsh conditions of the winter months, these tires use softer rubber with special treads that keep the tires free of snow. This provides increased traction keeping your tires glued to the road. They are a considerable cost and would need switched back to all-season tires in the spring, but can offer significant traction improvements and may save your life.

7. Keep an emergency kit in the car

This is a good habit to get in to all times of the year but is especially important in the winter months. Make sure to have an emergency kit in your car. In the winter months, add some warm clothes and blankets, heat pouches, extra food (your body burns more calories when it's cold), and anything else that could make being stranded a little less miserable. You should always keep a first aid kit in the car as well in case of emergency.

8. Make sure your four-wheel drive system is working properly

If you have a four-wheel drive car, make sure its four-wheel drive system is working properly. Have a service center inspect your system and top off the lubricants. Make sure you and everyone who uses your car knows how to properly work the system and when to use it.

9. Check the windshield wipers

Winter weather calls for special wiper blades. Ice and frost can destroy summer blades designed to remove rain water. Purchase special winter wiper blades that have extra thick rubber to help remove stubborn ice and snow. Make sure to switch out your summer washer fluid for the winter version which includes additives to prevent it from freezing.

10. Check the belts

The belts of your car are the life line of most of your engines critical systems. Belts power the water pump (cooling system), the alternator (charges the battery), and many other important systems. Cold weather weakens an engine's belts and if your belts are showing signs of wear, now is the time to change them. A broken belt is one of the easiest ways to end up stranded and is pretty inexpensive to replace. Make sure yours won't be a problem this winter.


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