It’s officially autumn

Even if you re not ready to pull out your sweaters, coats, hats, gloves and boots, now is the time to ready your ride for winter’s upcoming onslaught. Photo by Metro Creative Graphics
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Even if you re not ready to pull out your sweaters, coats, hats, gloves and boots, now is the time to ready your ride for winter’s upcoming onslaught. Photo by Metro Creative Graphics

Get your car ready for winter

With autumn’s arrival made official by the recent equinox, we know Old Man Winter will be rearing his ugly head soon enough. And even if you’re not ready to pull out your sweaters, coats, hats, gloves and boots, now is the time to ready your ride for the upcoming onslaught.

Here’s what should be inspected:

Tires: Nothing affects your vehicle's handling as much as an under-inflated tire. Its flatter shape reduces vehicle stability while increasing rolling resistance. This not only builds up heat, which can cause the tire to fail, but it also leads to higher fuel consumption.

Tires are more likely to go flat during fall as the temperatures cool. When checking pressure, don’t look at the tire. Look at the driver’s side front door jamb, where the manufacturer-official information is posted in most new vehicles.

While you’re at it, check the tread. Take a penny and place it upside down into several places across the tire. If the top of Abe Lincoln’s head is showing, it’s time to replace the tire.

Also, check the state of the tread itself. If a tire is worn on both edges, it’s under-inflated. If it’s worn in the center of the tread, it’s overinflated. If you spot cups or dips in the tread, have the suspension and steering systems checked.

Finally, if your car has summer performance tires, consider replacing them with winter tires.

Battery: As temperatures plunge, more power will be required to get your car or truck started. Replacing an older battery before winter's worst sets in ensures you won't be left stranded and means you'll probably be able to buy one on sale.

Deciding when to replace it is simple. If you have a 36-month battery, replace it shy of 36 months.

Also, have your car’s alternator, voltage regulator, belts and connecting cables checked.

Windshield wipers, washer fluid: Replace your wipers if they're streaking. Also, if you usually dilute your windshield washer fluid with water, use the mixed fluid up and replace it with pure washer fluid that won't freeze below 32 degrees.

Cooling system: If you can't remember the last time your vehicle's cooling system was flushed, check your records and your owner's manual. Flushing the system prevents clogging. Just be sure to use a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water. Also, be sure to use the proper antifreeze. Many newer vehicles specify a new, longer-life engine coolant, not the traditional green type. And, of course, you are going to replace any dried-out, cracked hoses. Right?

Lights: Have a family member or friend stand outside the car as you activate your vehicle's headlights, fog lamps, tail lamps and turn signals. Being seen in a storm or fog is important.

Brakes: Rain, sleet and snow increase stopping distances. If your brakes squeal when coming to a stop, now is the time to get them checked or replaced.

Defroster: Do all of your defrosters work? This might seem like an insignificant item – until you need it.

Clean your car: Getting your car cleaned and detailed does more than remove accumulated summer debris. After all, a clean car is a pleasant car. Wipe down all surfaces. For leather, use a leather cleaner and moisturizer to prevent cracking. Clear out the glove box, center console and rear cargo area. Vacuum the seats, carpet and headliner. This will prevent a new life form from spawning under the seat. Of course you're going to wash the exterior, but be sure to polish it, and follow it up with wax to preserve the finish.

Be prepared: No one likes when their vehicle breaks down, but having the right items on-board can make your life easier.

Pre-assembled emergency and first aid kits are available at auto parts stores, but you can build your own. Be sure to include screwdrivers (Phillips and flat-head), pliers, socket wrenches, duct tape, electrical wire tape, electrical wire spray, WD-40, flashlight with extra batteries, coolant hose repair kit, a small fire extinguisher, tire gauge, road flares, spare fuses, foam tire sealant or a portable air compressor, jumper cables, rain gear, work gloves, roadside assistance phone number, a disposable camera (to record accident damage), spare fluids and nonperishable food.

Also, consider adding kitty litter (for added traction under a slipping tire), a small shovel, a windshield scraper, a first aid kit, cloth or paper towels, drinking water and a blanket.

Being prepared means having one less thing to worry about and is well worth the time and effort.

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