Fall Car Maintenance Tips

With fall in full swing, take the time to get your vehicle in shape for cold weather today. In just a few simple steps, you can ensure that you are protecting your investment and avoiding costly repairs down the road. Whether you do it yourself or take your car to a professional service technician, the Car Care Council recommends taking proactive steps to prepare your car for winter driving.

1. Battery - Keep the battery connections clean, tight and corrosion-free. Cold weather is hard on batteries, so it is wise to check the battery charging system. Because batteries do not always give warning signs before they fail, it is advisable to replace batteries that are more than three years old.

2. Heater, Defroster and Wiper Blades - Check that the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are working properly, as heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons, such as defrosting. Fall is also a great time to check your air filters. Wiper blades that are torn, cracked or do not properly clean your windshield should be replaced. As a rule, wiper blades should be replace every six months. When changing the blades, be sure to check the fluid level in the windshield washer reservoir.

3. Tires - Check the tires, including the tire pressure and tread depth. Uneven wear indicates the need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly as tires lose pressure when temperatures drop.

4. Brakes - Have the brake system checked, including brake linings, rotors and drums. Brakes are critical to vehicle safety and particularly important when driving on icy or snow-covered roads.

"Making your vehicle last longer makes good financial sense," said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "By simply budgeting the equivalent of just one car payment, you could cover an entire year's worth of basic maintenance."

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