I recently received a friendly reminder from my car dealer not to forget to winterize my car. With winter weather fast approaching, it makes sense to tackle some of the simple maintenance tasks that could keep your car in top running condition. Timely maintenance does more than keep your vehicle running smoothly. It can help increase its trade-in value, improve its mileage and save you time and costly repairs down the road.
Belts. With the engine off, check your car’s belts for cracks and missing pieces. To check for proper tightness, press down on the belt with your thumb. If the belt gives more than half an inch, it needs tightening.
Hoses. When the car is cold, feel your car’s hoses for bulges, cracks, soft spots or brittleness. With the engine running, look for (but don’t touch) bulges or leaks. If you detect any, have the hose replaced. Note: Avoid replacing air conditioning hoses yourself. Their pressurized gases can cause serious injury.
Coolant. Check the level of coolant in your radiator by looking at the coolant overflow tank. Maintaining a 50/50 mix of antifreeze will keep your engine cool in hot weather and prevent damage when temperatures fall as low as 40 below zero. Note: Do not remove the radiator cap until the engine is turned off and has cooled down.
Oil. Depending on the driving conditions your car is subjected to, change your oil and filter as recommended in your Owner’s Manual. Also, use the recommended oil grade.
Power Steering Fluid. To check, pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean, and insert it again. Pull it out again and check the level. If it is below the HOT range, add the recommended steering fluid up to the upper level mark. Note: If the fluid level is extremely low or fluid has been replaced, contact your dealer.
Brake Fluid. Check the fluid level on the outside of the tank using the lines on the reservoir as a guide. If the level is below MIN, add brake fluid from a sealed container to bring it up to MAX. You’ll notice a significant drop in fluid levels when there’s a leak. Note: Brake fluid absorbs moisture from the air. Any absorbed moisture can cause a dangerous loss of braking performance. If your brake fluid tank requires frequent refilling, there may be a leak. Contact your dealer immediately.
Air Filter. Again, depending on the condition of the roads traveled by your vehicle, routinely check your air filter for accumulated debris.
Battery. Check your battery terminals regularly, removing any corrosion with a toothbrush and a mix of baking soda and water.
Tires. Check your tire pressure (with tires cold) once a month or more. Keep tires inflated to manufacturer’s recommendations, which can be found on the driver’s side door frame placard and in the owner’s manual.
Wipers, Washers, Horn And Lights. Finally, be sure to check the operation of your car’s wipers, windshield washers, horn and lights. Tip: Isopropyl alcohol makes wiper blade clean-up a snap!