Winter Pre-Season Car Maintenance Checklist

by Don Elliott on September 8, 2011

Shorter days and colder nights are indications of the winter driving season. It is not too soon to complete your list of auto maintenance items before the harsh weather is upon us.

The Car Care Council says 70% of us don’t do anything to get our vehicles ready for winter. Most car owners can complete the items on this list with a little motivation and mechanical ability. However, your favorite auto mechanic or local car repair facility can complete this checklist for $100 or less, assuming there are no auto repairs required.

  • Battery – Clean the top of the battery and terminals with baking soda and a wire brush. Batteries lose power as the weather gets colder. Most stores that sell batteries will check yours at no charge before the cold weather arrives.
  • Tires – Your tires loose one pound of pressure for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature. Tire tread less than 3/32” indicates that it is time for new tires, particularly before the challenges of ice and snow make traction an issue. It is a good idea to rotate your tires twice per year, in the spring and in the fall.
  • Windshield Wipers – Wiper blades that streak, chatter, or improperly clean should be changed sooner rather than later.
  • Antifreeze – Antifreeze/coolant should be flushed every couple of years. At least, make sure that your antifreeze reservoir is filled to the line with the proper 50/50 mixture of antifreeze for your car. Auto repair stores sell a tester for around $5.
  • Windshield Wiper Fluid – Switch from the “bug remover” type to the “de-icer” type of wiper fluid for the winter months. Be sure to top off the wiper fluid reservoir regularly to avoid getting stuck on the highway with an icey, streaky windshield.
  • Paint Protection – Most new cars are finished with a clear coat to protect the deep rich color of your car’s paint finish. In more severe climates, an additional coat or two of a polymer type car wax protects against stone chips, scratches, and ice damage.
  • Carpets – For less than $30, you can replace your matching floor mats with vinyl mat designed to hold ice, snow, and salt off of the carpet during winter’s most severe months.
  • Mechanical – This is where your auto repair mechanic can be most helpful. You can check to make sure your four-wheel drive is engaging, the car belts are not cracked, the hoses are not leaking, and your emergency brake is working properly. Check under the hood when it is dark to see if there is any arcing or sparks coming off of your spark plug wires or electrical connections. If there is, it may be time to have the wires replaced.
  • Filters – Replacing the car engine’s air cleaner filter is an easy job that can be done in your driveway with no tools. The air cleaner in the passenger compartment is a bit tougher, depending on the car that you own. A clean passenger compartment filter will allow your car’s heater to work more efficiently.

Watch your local advertising and automotive websites for car repair discounts. “Tune-Up Specials” are an inexpensive way to get your car ready for winter before the snow starts to fall.

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