Q: I’ve been told that when the weather turns cold, it’s important to have your car serviced and make it “winter ready.” What are the most important items to have checked before the temperatures drop?
A: It is wise to have your car checked/serviced as needed to be ready for winter driving. It’s also important to make sure that the checking and servicing is done by a knowledgeable repair facility.
Make sure that the following items are inspected.
• Tires. They should be checked for proper inflation and adequate tread depth, as well as for age. Six years or older is pushing the life of the tire.
• Battery. The battery condition, charging system operation and starting system operation, is the second most critical item to check. In cold conditions, batteries lose some of their ability to provide current to operate the starter. A knowledgeable repair shop will be capable of performing a battery load test to determine if it is up to the job. A marginal battery may start the engine at 60 F, but may not at 15 F.
• Starter. This could also be weak and able to start the vehicle at 60 F, but not at 15 F. A check of the current needed by the starter to do its work will indicate whether it is up to the task.
• Alternator. This has to work extra hard to provide the battery with the current needed to run all accessories used in the cold, especially if you plan to be where there is snow. The charging system must be tested with that same electrical load to ensure that it is working correctly.
• Windshield wipers. Make sure that windshield wipers work properly and that blades are in good condition to ensure maximum visibility. The windshield washer fluid needs to be the proper mix so that it does not freeze.
• Exterior lights. If the brake lights, taillights, headlights, etc., are not working as they should, the odds of having an accident increase.
• Engine coolant. The condition and mixture of engine coolant is important to avoid freezing and engine damage. A competent repair shop can check both freeze-point and acidic level of the coolant.
• Heater and defrosters. These items need to be in good working order to keep the inside windows clear. They are also important to maintain for your comfort.