Vehicles running at their optimum performance ensure you arrive as planned
October is Car Safety Month
The perfect time to fall into a routine vehicle maintenance program and get your car ready for the challenges of colder weather. Canadian winters are notoriously harsh and throw all kinds of weather our way, sometimes making driving a challenge, so it’s important to be prepared. As you head out on the road, give a thought to your ride. Keeping up with Routine Maintenance and Safety Inspections will keep your car safe, performing at it's peak, and save you money through the colder winter season. Don’t postpone—a mishap that might be just an annoyance in warmer weather could be a life-endangering hazard in the winter.
A thorough inspection of your vehicle during the fall months will go a long way toward ensuring safety and dependability when temperatures drop and severe winter weather strikes. A routine maintenance program also makes financial sense, extending useful vehicle life and helping avoid costly repairs down the road and purchasing a new vehicle is costly and challenging in today’s environment.
Here are items that should be included in your regular maintenance checks to ensure that you and your car to make it through the season unscathed.
Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake, and transmission as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant. Make sure your windshield washer fluid is the proper strength and type. Having it freeze up (and expand) in the reservoir and tubes of your washer system could obviously be costly, but even if you avoid that fate, diluted fluid is more likely to freeze when it’s sprayed out of the jets and onto the windshield. If you’re traveling somewhere where it gets wicked cold, pay attention to the label of the washer fluid. Some formulas have lower freezing points than others. Give yourself a safe margin; there are few things more annoying (or dangerous) than having your windshield frost over completely while you’re driving.
Inspect hoses and belts to make sure they are not cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or showing signs of excessive wear.
Schedule a tune-up to help the engine deliver the best balance of power and fuel economy and produce the lowest level of emissions.
Inspect the steering and suspension system annually including shock absorbers, struts, and chassis parts such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.
Check your tires and tire pressure. Make sure you have tires that provide the best safety for the conditions and roads you travel. Be sure to check the pressure of your tires (including your spare tire) at least once per month over winter – every 5°C change in temperature results in about a 7_kPa (1 psi) change in tire pressure. Properly inflated tires last longer, make your vehicle safer to drive and can improve your fuel efficiency by up to 3 per cent.
Check or replace your battery. Very cold temperatures will reduce your car’s battery power, so it’s important to keep the connections clean, tight and corrosion-free. If your battery is more than five years old, you should also consider replacing it with one that is rated as high as the one specified in your owner’s manual.
Use the right coolant. As strange as it sounds, your cooling system is one of the most important things to watch during the winter. In most parts of Canada, a 50/50 mix of coolant and water keeps the coolant from freezing, lubricates the water pump and protects the cooling system from corrosion. In very cold areas you may need to change the concentration, but your coolant concentration should never exceed 70 per cent. Making sure the coolant PH level is checked as well to avoid premature engine component corrosion. Your coolant also plays a big part in your vehicles heating and defrost system. Having a warm vehicle and a clear windshield is crucial on winter roads.
Check your brakes. When you need to stop on slick and icy roads, every second counts. Check your brakes for wear and tear and buy yourself some time to stop by replacing worn brake pads.
Test your exhaust system for leaks. Leaks can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed. Be sure to check your exhaust system at least once per year to stay safe.
Check your lights. Over time, your lights may dim or burn out completely and the plastic in your light covers will degrade and cloud, leading to distorted and dimmed illumination. Be sure to replace both your bulbs and light covers to maintain high quality lighting. Waxing your headlight covers can also help prevent the build-up of ice and snow on your lights during the cold and dark winter months.
Check the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons such as defrosting. The defroster is particularly important in making sure all your trips are as safe as possible with a clear view of the road.
Pack an emergency kit. Never leave home without a safety kit in the winter. Make sure that you have a shovel, a snow/ice brush, jumper cables or a battery pack, extra windshield washer fluid, extra wiper, snacks and water, and warm clothes or a blanket in case you get stranded.
Keep your gas tank at least half full. Maintaining at least a half tank of gas will limit condensation in your gas tank and prevent your gas line from freezing during the colder months. Adding a little gas-line anti-freeze every second fill-up can also help to prevent freezing.
A quick vehicle inspection by a professional will locate any problems. From there, you can work together to figure out the best course of action to make the necessary repairs. But you want to make sure to get this done with plenty of time before the weather changes to avoid unnecessary risk.
Winter driving can be serious business, so be sure to slow down, be patient, and remember to you’re your vehicle in proper condition to help you arrive at your destination safely.