With winter in full swing, keeping your vehicle running smoothly and efficiently is more important than ever. No one wants to get stuck on the side of the road during a nasty storm, or spend their time in the car shivering because the heater blows cold air. Even though some things are uncontrollable, there are things you can do to keep your vehicle in top shape.
With the temperatures dipping below freezing in many parts of the country, your heating system needs to be in good shape. The system should be inspected at least once a year, or in accordance with your owner’s manual, by the trained technicians at your dealer. A sufficient amount of antifreeze mixed at the right proportion of water to antifreeze is important to the proper functioning of your heating and cooling system. The system should be checked for leaks and the heater fan should be checked for proper operation. It’s also important to have your exhaust system checked for any leaks, including carbon monoxide. Undetected carbon monoxide leaks can prove especially dangerous during winter, when the windows are primarily closed.
A braking system in good working condition is important year round. If you hear squealing or grinding, feel vibration or sponginess in the pedal, or the vehicle pulls to either side when you brake, it’s time to bring the vehicle in and have the brake system inspected. Modern brake systems are sophisticated and can include electronic sensors and interrelated safety features in addition to the usual items like pads, rotors and calipers. That’s why it’s important to have your brakes serviced by manufacturer-trained service technicians for your make of vehicle.
Often overlooked items like windshield wipers (front and rear, if so equipped) and wiper fluid should be checked and replaced/refilled as necessary. Your windshield should be free from cracks and chips. If not, visit your dealer; minor chips can often be repaired or stabilized to prevent larger cracks, or your dealer can arrange windshield replacement if necessary. Again, properly trained technicians will use manufacturer-approved adhesives and replacement techniques to ensure a proper seal, and they have the experience necessary to avoid damaging rain sensors, windshield-mounted cameras or other features your vehicle may have.
Your battery works extra hard during the colder months, so make sure it’s in good shape. A dead battery can be the difference between starting right up and having to wait for a jump-start in a dark parking lot. Have it tested to prevent unexpected failure, and replace it if necessary, before it dies. Headlamps, taillamps, foglamps, daytime running lights, turn signals, parking lights and reverse lights are important for good visibility. Make sure they are all functioning properly and replace any that are out. Your dealer’s parts counter will have the bulbs specific to your make and model.
A set of heavy-duty floor mats for your car or truck can offer better protection for your carpeting during the winter, as can cargo area liners. Look for products made specifically to fit your vehicle. A bag of sand or kitty litter, an extra blanket, some water and some flares in your trunk can be very useful this time of year, too.
Your vehicle might be one of your biggest investments, and making sure it is ready for anything now can save you a great deal of time and trouble in the future.