Dear Car Coach: The weather is getting cooler outside, I hope it doesn’t snow soon. What should I do to my car so I’m ready?
– T.H., Hamburg
Dear T.H.: I recommend that you take advantage of this time of year to prepare your vehicle for the winter ahead. Breakdowns, never convenient, can be dangerous in cold weather. Here are some tips:
First things first. Read your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedules.
Engine performance. Have engine drivability problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a good repair shop. Cold weather will make existing problems worse. Replace dirty filters – air, fuel, PCV, etc.
Oil. Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual. Synthetic oil will lubricate your engine best in colder temperatures.
Cooling system. The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. The level, condition and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically.
Hoses and belts. The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps and hoses should be checked by a certified auto technician.
Windshield wipers. Replace old blades after six months; 80 percent of your driving decisions are based on visibility. Stock up on windshield washer solvent – you’ll be surprised how much you’ll use.
Battery. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. The cold weather can make starting your car more difficult.
Lights. Inspect all lights and bulbs and replace burned-out bulbs.
Tires. Worn tires will be of little use in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing and cupping. Check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check your tire pressure once a month and don’t forget to check your spare.
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” campaign, educating consumers about the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair. For more information about Fall Car Care Month, go to the website, www.carcare.org.
Dear Car Coach: My dad is always tossing out these silly car facts. Can you tell me the truth: 1) If I have tire-pressure monitoring system I don’t have to check my tires. 2) If I buy two tires, the new ones go on the front. 3) It’s dangerous if the tire pressure is at “max tire pressure.” 4) All-season tires are so good that winter tires are never needed.
– G.E., Boston
Dear G.E.: There are many myths when it comes to tires – here are just a few.
Myth No. 1: The tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) in my new car ensures that my tires are adequately inflated.
The truth: TPMS isn’t required to issue a low tire-pressure warning until pressure is 25 percent below the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation. That’s well below the pressure required for safe driving. TPMS is intended as a last-minute warning before imminent tire failure.
Buy a quality digital tire pressure gauge and check your tire pressure at least once a month, matching the gauge with the proper tire pressure located inside the driver’s doorjamb.
Myth No. 2: When replacing only two tires, the new ones go on the front.
The truth: Rear tires provide stability, and without stability, steering or braking on a wet or even damp surface might cause a spin. The tires with the most tread go on the rear.
Myth No. 3: A tire is in danger of bursting if pressure exceeds the “max pressure” number on the sidewall.
The truth: The “max press” number has nothing to do with a tire’s burst pressure. The “max press” and “max load” numbers indicate the pressure at which the tire will carry the maximum amount of weight.
Myth No. 4: Winter tires are never needed.
The truth: If you live in the northernmost states or in Canada, the traction provided by winter tires can’t be beat. Winter tires provide 25-percent-improved traction in deep snow over all-season tires. Metal-studded tires deliver up to 40 percent greater traction on hard-packed snow and ice over all-season tires, but many locales have restrictions regarding the use of studs.
I hope this helps you sort out the facts.