Did you know that nearly one in four Americans will travel by car during the year-end holiday season? Is your vehicle up to the challenge?
Nothing ruins a holiday trip to visit the family like a broken down vehicle on an empty stretch of highway. Make sure your vehicle is ready for the worst that Mother Nature has to hand out. The Farmer’s Almanac and many weather experts are predicting much of the U.S. will see harsh weather in the months ahead. The best chance for cold conditions in the East will come later in the winter.
El Niño is expected to play a large role in temperature fluctuations this winter, but there are many other factors that may also play an important role. If Hurricane Patricia’s rapid rise to record breaking size and velocity, and subsequent fall in intensity is any indication, we’re in for an erratic change of season. Starting in November, temperatures are expected to be cooler than average from southern California into parts of the Southwest, as well as into the central and southern Plains and even portions of the Lower Mississippi Valley. Cooler than average temperatures will likely be found from Arizona eastward through Texas and into the South, including Florida.
Just as you might prepare your home to withstand the ice and snow, it pays to be prepared to insure your vehicle is prepared to handle winter driving conditions.
- Start by replacing dirty air, cabin, fuel and oil filters. Each vehicle in the family fleet should be checked out by a technician, especially if it’s suffering from mechanical issues. Things like hard starts, rough idling, stalling and sluggish acceleration will only get worse in cold weather.
- Get a Brake Inspection. At Brakes Plus, our Brake Inspections are FREE. If the inspection reveals they do require repair, we will explain exactly what’s required and what’s optional. Symptoms that it’s time for a brake job include: Drag, when your brakes stick or fail to release. Pulling on one side of vehicle when brakes are applied. Hard pedal, or when it takes extreme pressure to make the brakes function. Vibration in the brake pedal, steering wheel or the entire car shakes. Some noise is normal, but excessive squeal, screech, grinding, groaning, chatter, clatter or bang means your brakes are in need of repair. Low pedal is when the pedal nearly touches the floor before the brakes function. Grab, or “Touchy” brakes that grab with the least pressure, may indicate a problem as simple as grease or oil contaminated linings – or as serious as loose or broken component ready to fail in an emergency.
- Check the heater and defroster to ensure they’re in good working condition. Flush cooling system and refilled with a fresh 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water to ensure proper cold weather engine protection.
- Check the engine and transmission fluid, brake fluid and windshield washer fluid levels, topping each off as necessary.
- Get the oil changed for extra protection against winter driving conditions. Preventative maintenance keeps your vehicle running efficiently. You should change your oil and oil filter every five months or 5,000 miles. This helps prevent engine damage and keeps your engine running smoothly, especially over the winter months.
- Have your battery inspected by a technician to ensure it will last the winter at full power. Colder mornings make for rough starts. Check to make sure the battery contacts are clean and free from corrosion; if you see a white powder at the contacts, clean them off with a wire brush. If the battery is several years old, buying a new one before winter sets in will be cheap insurance against a breakdown later in the season.
- Ensure your car’s tires are properly inflated to the air pressure recommended by the automaker (you’ll find this information in the vehicle’s owners’ manual and on a sticker in the door jamb). Be sure to examine the tread for excessive wear. The traditional way to accomplish this is to insert a penny into the tread, and if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head (or see horizontal tread wear warning bands running across the tread) it’s time to replace the tire. If your car is equipped with so-called “summer” performance tires, have them swapped out for a set of all-season tires. Those with rear-drive cars should consider switching to a set of deep-tread snow tires for maximum traction.
- Finally, change the windshield wipers so they’ll be fresh and up to the task of maximizing your outward visibility, using rubber-clad winter blades to combat icy buildups. Carry at least one full jug of antifreeze windshield wiper solvent in the trunk – it goes more quickly than many motorists anticipate in winter months – and be sure to carry a good-quality ice scraper.
Both you and your car need to be prepared to take on the hazards and challenges of winter driving. Have your vehicle thoroughly checked out and make any repairs before hitting the highways.
Take advantage of our monthly specials at Brakes Plus to help get your vehicle in shape for winter: www.brakesplus.com/coupons
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