Autumn is a great time for automotive maintenance and repair.
We can repair the wear and tear from all the extra miles put on in the summer and prepare for those colder days ahead.
“Winter magnifies existing problems like hard starts, sluggish performance and rough idling,” says Rich White, executive director of the non-profit Car Care Council. “Whether you perform the check or maintenance yourself or go to the repair shop, its a small investment of time and money to ensure peace of mind, and help avoid the cost and hassle of a breakdown during severe weather.”
To ensure that your car keeps running at its peak performance here is a Fall Car Care Checklist:
#1 Tire Pressure
- Proper tire pressure helps your car’s gas mileage.
- It’s even more important when the temperature drops because tires lose 1 PSI for every 10 degrees.
- Tires should be checked monthly to assure that they are filled to their recommended PSI rating.
- Your PSI rating can be found on the driver’s side door paneling, in the owner’s manual, or sometimes on the tires themselves.
Want to know how to put air in your tire? See the Dummies Guide.
- A regular check of the tread is key to avoid driving on excessively worn out tires. See the Dummies Guide for more comprehensive information on tire wear.
- Make sure to rotate your tires every 5,000 miles to avoid the risk of having one tire wear more than the others.
- If you can see your breath outdoors the temperature is around 7°C or 44°F – its time for winter tires.
- All season tires get hard below those temperatures (think of a rubber hockey puck that freezes and slides on the ice.)
- Winter tires are more pliable with a tread that whisks frozen water and ice away.
#3 Oil Change
- The lower temperatures increase the stress on your engine and dirty oil can spell trouble in winter so have an oil change to prepare for winter months.
- Change to winter weight oil if you live in a cold climate.
- Change your oil filter.
- Check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time.
Want to change the oil yourself? Here’s the Oil Change Guide for Dummies – free online.
- Check the radiator for leaks and low levels. Remember to never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled.
- Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system if necessary. (This should be done every two years.)
- Have a full engine tune-up of systems and fluid levels (brakes, transmission, etc.) while you’re at it.
Want to check the radiator yourself? The Dummies Guide Online will show you how, step by step.
- Make sure the battery connections are tight and free from corrosion.
- If your battery is more than 3 months old have it tested because winter is hard on batteries – at freezing the battery AH capacity is reduced by 20% and at -22 degrees F (-27 C) capacity drops to 50%.
- Consider using an engine block heater if you live in an area where temperatures can dip below -20 Celsius or -4 Fahrenheit
- Make sure you have jumper cables in your car just in case your vehicle won’t start – see our How to Use Jumper Cables printable to put in your car too.
Want to check the battery yourself? Here’s the Battery Check Guide for Dummies – free online.
#6 Heating, Wipers & Lights
- Put winter-weight antifreeze in windshield wiper wash.
- Change wiper blades – they should be changed every 6 months.
- Use special blades for ice & snow if you live in a frosty climate.
- Make sure heaters, defrosters and wipers work properly.
- Ensure that all exterior and interior lights work and headlights are aimed properly.
There is nothing like one last road trip in the autumn to enjoy the fall foliage, the crisp, clean air and last vestiges of longer daylight.