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Caring for your car during winter weather

Prevent costly repairs with routine maintenance checks

POSTED: January 24, 2014 1:00 a.m.

Getting started in the colder months isn’t easy for people or their vehicles.

In order to ultimately save money on costly repairs, drivers should give their vehicles a little extra care and consideration when the mercury drops.

Karen Bryant, lane manager for the service department at Milton Martin Honda in Gainesville, said drivers can prevent a lot of problems from occurring by proper winter vehicle maintenance.

Colder temperatures can become an issue for engines in a number of areas. But simply checking coolant levels, batteries and tire pressure might be enough to prevent costly problems from occurring.

Bryant said one of the most important things to remember when the temperature drops is to check the engine’s antifreeze. A mechanic can ensure the antifreeze is working at the appropriate temperature for your vehicle. Insufficient levels of antifreeze could cause radiators and hoses to freeze and burst. Repairing these problems could cost hundreds of dollars depending on the vehicle.

While the mechanic is under the hood, ask him or her to test the battery.

“Cold weather just takes a toll on the cells in the battery,” Bryant said.

Low temperatures can make the battery terminals corrode faster which can cause the battery to die without warning, leaving motorists stranded in the cold.

Drivers also can help ensure their battery is working properly by at least cranking the vehicle every day.

As important as it is to have a running vehicle, it’s more important to have a safe vehicle. Roads in winter often pose safety risks that can cause an accident.

But drivers can help ensure their safety as well as the safety of other drivers by keeping an eye on their vehicles’s traction and visibility.

According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, 83 percent of Americans don’t know how to properly inflate their tires.

“Make sure you check your tire pressure in the winter,” Bryant said. “It can change. It can drop in the winter. So (drivers) need to keep tires inflated properly. On the inside of the door jamb on the vehicle, it will tell you what your tire pressure should be for that vehicle.”

According to AAA’s website, AAA.com, tire pressure should be checked each month when the tires are cold. Don’t go by the pressure stamped on the sidewall of the tire, instead look for the specific tire pressure for the vehicle in the owner’s manual or the inside door.

A tire’s tread will wear down over time, but drivers can check tread depth by placing a quarter upside down in the tread grooves. If Washington’s head is exposed, the tread is worn, according to AAA.

Low temperatures can also cause the rubber in wiper blades to freeze and crack, which can prevent the blades from removing snow, rain and debris. Typically, blades last for six to 12 months. It’s time to replace blades when streaking or squeaking occurs.

AAA suggests using a solution that won’t freeze in low temperatures in the windshield washer fluid reservoir to ensure insects and debris can be removed if needed while driving.

Consult your owner’s manual for directions on checking your vehicle’s levels or visit a certified mechanic and be sure your vehicle is safe for the road.

“Preventative maintenance is worth a lot of money,” Bryant said. “... Any preventative maintenance it may cost you a little then but can save a lot of money in the long run.”


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