By CRISTIN REECE
PALESTINE — As winter weather sets in, and thoughts turn to annual holiday road trips, car care officials are reminding drivers that a little pre-season maintenance is all it takes to make sure you make it 'over the river and through the woods.'
Extended cold temperatures can wreak havoc on some key systems in many vehicles, even in East Texas where winters aren't known to get too harsh.
“The last thing any driver needs is a vehicle that breaks down in cold, harsh winter weather,” Car Care Council Executive Director Rich White said in a release published at the Car Care Council's website, www.carcare.org. “A vehicle check before the temperatures drop is a sensible way to avoid the inconvenience of being stranded out in the cold and with the unexpected expense of emergency repairs.”
The site, and local auto repair technicians, recommend these steps to make sure your car is ready for winter driving:
• If you’re due for a tune-up, have it done before winter sets in. Winter magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling.
• Have the battery and charging system checked for optimum performance. Replace batteries that are four years old or older.
• Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. As a general rule of thumb, this should be done every two years.
“Your car's cooling system operates the heater and defrost, too,” said Jennifer Gaines, with Mike Gaines Garage in Palestine. “So if something happens to the cooling system, your heater isn't going to work either.”
• Make sure wipers work properly. Consider winter wiper blades and use cold weather washer fluid. As a general rule, wiper blades should be replaced every six months.
• Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly.
“We're seeing improperly inflated tires pretty consistently right now,” said Kenneth Young, manager of Bratz Tires in Palestine, said. “Especially as the temperature starts to fluctuate. For every 10 degrees the temperature drops, you can lose up to a pound and a half of air pressure per tire. The pressure in your tires affects everything from how your car handles to how it performs, how it stops — running the proper tire pressure is very important, especially as weather conditions get worse. If your vehicle is equipped with a tire pressure light, and it comes on, don't ignore it. If you're losing air pressure frequently, though, or there's a vast discrepancy in pressure lost, there may be another problem. Get it checked.”
• Be diligent about changing the oil and filter at recommended intervals. Dirty oil can spell trouble in winter. Have your technician check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time.
• Have the brakes checked. The braking system is the vehicle’s most important safety item.
• Have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed. Idling or 'warming up' a car in a garage, even with the door open, is dangerous and exposes the driver to carbon monoxide and other noxious gases. If the garage is attached, those fumes can also enter the house.
• Check to see that exterior and interior lights work and headlights are properly aimed.
“Drivers should also make sure to check the tire pressure of the spare in the trunk and stock an emergency kit with an ice scraper and snowbrush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, extra clothes, candles/matches, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication,” the site states.
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a copy of the council’s Car Care Guide or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.