If you’ve watched the news lately, the weathermen already have begun uttering the “s” word. That’s that nasty four-letter word that Chicagoans have a love-hate relationship. The word “snow” conjures up more dread than the Bears losing to the Green Bay Packers or a month without a mouth-watering pizza from your favorite pizzeria. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but it comes awfully close.
With vivid memories of last year’s record-setting blizzard still entrenched in our minds, now is the time to winterize our vehicles. Don’t be fooled by these lingering, sunny fall days. Old Man Winter will soon be taking up residence and raging his weather war for the next several…er…few months.
Take steps now to maximize your car’s performance throughout the season that puts road warriors on the toughest obstacle course of the year: snow, sleet, ice and frigid temperatures.
Here are six must-checks before winter begins:
1. Is the battery in good shape? Check the terminals and cables for any signs of corrosion. Look at the label to determine the age of the battery. Most batteries are designed for 5 years of use. Since the advent of on-board computers, automatic/delayed headlamps, memory radios, etc, batteries work much harder than they used to. If the battery is more than 4-5 years old, give yourself an early Christmas present and replace it. It’s not worth pushing it. There’s nothing worse than a dead battery on a bitter winter day.
2. Is the coolant clean? Check the coolant to ensure it has the right level of protection. This is not your grandfather’s antifreeze! Coolant should be tested periodically for freeze protection, alkalinity, and foam and rust inhibitors. Fresh coolant prevents overheating, freezing, corrosion to metal components (which shortens their life), and leaks—in short, a lot of really expensive and unnecessary repairs. AAA reports that the single most frequent cause of mechanical breakdowns is cooling system related.
3.What about the tires? The upcoming slippery weather presents several tire considerations: tread depth, age of the tires and increased pressure loss.
- Tread depth is designed to move through the snow under the tire and to prevent punctures, which are more common in snowy weather because of debris accumulating in the slush and gutters. Check the tire treads to ensure there’s enough to get you safely through the season. One way to do this is to take the penny test. Place a penny head side first into several different grooves of the tire, if you only can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.
- As tires age, the oil that is compounded into the rubber boils away. Contrary to popular myth, traction is not a function of tread depth as much as the “stickiness” of the tire. As the oil goes away, so does the “stick.”
- Tire pressure loss is more common in colder temperatures because the air molecules contract, and the corrosive ice melt causes rim leaks where the rubber tire mounts to the alloy wheel. Low tire pressure causes the tire to concave; overinflation causes the tread to convex. Both conditions diminish the traction capabilities of the tire. If your tires are over 6 years old, under 2/32 tread, the wrong size, or not inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications, you could be unnecessarily at risk this winter.
If you or a family member is interested in a personal one-on-one with one of our tire experts, we will be happy to show you how to determine the age of your tires, how to set the proper tire pressure, and how to locate the tire size specs for your vehicle. We’ll even give you a free tire gauge to send you down the road properly equipped. Contact us if you’re interested.
4. Is your car clean? The salt trucks can wreak havoc on your car’s exterior. Now is the perfect time to have your car detailed to protect the paint against road salt. Once the windows are clean, you can better check for any new chips in the windshield. Cold weather can make chips spread instantly to the point of needing a new windshield. Fortunately, we offer chip repair, which will usually prevent the window from cracking and requiring complete replacement. Need a repair? Schedule an appointment now.
5. What’s wrong with those wiper blades? If the wiper blades are getting stuck, haven’t been changed in awhile or making squeaking sounds when they sweep across the windshield, now is the time to replace these. Don’t wait for a rain or snow storm! And remember that ripped or torn wiper blades can damage the windshield.
6. What up with those belts? If you hear any shrill or screeching sound while starting up your vehicle or while driving, it could mean you need to replace a belt or two. Even if you don’t hear any of these warning signs, check the belts on the vehicle to ensure that there’s no cracks, tears or worn areas.
Don’t have time to do the above or not sure where to get started? Don’t worry! All of these items are inspected at no additional charge with every visit to CARS of America. We’ll make sure your vehicle is ready to tackle the “s” word all season long, whether you schedule an appointment in our full-service bays or drive in without an appointment to our Express Auto Care center!