Time For a Vehicle Check-Up

Time for a Vehicle Check-Up

A student's car in the shop for maintenance (Photo by Kristen Wagner)

By Kristen Wagner

Snow swallows your car. After 20 minutes with the defroster on full-blast and shoveling the ice and snow off of your car, you’re ready to try to get to school. Then all of a sudden you find that the windshield wipers leave heavy streaks and the washer fluid doesn’t do anything to help your cause. Your “maintenance required” light is blinking and the heater is reluctant to blow out warm air of any sort. It’s not a good day for the neglected vehicle in winter.

All of these things can happen at the most inconvenient times, but you may just avoid most of it if you take one afternoon to perform preventive maintenance on your vehicle.

There are many easy maintenance steps that can be taken to improve the functioning of your vehicle. First of all, clean it. Take the time to clean the interior and shampoo the seats and carpets. Dump out your ashtray. Clean the wheel well arches from mud and dirt, and don’t forget the undercarriage. Cleaning the underneath of the vehicle can protect it from rusting.

Next, clean the battery with warm water. According to autorepair.about.com, the terminals can be removed and wire brushed, and both the terminals and the battery posts can be cleaned with water and baking soda. After the terminals are reattached you can coat all of the exposed metal with petroleum jelly. The top and sides of the battery can be easily cleaned with any household cleaner. It’s good to clean the battery from excess dirt and junk because dirt holds moisture. The moisture can act as a conductor that conducts the electricity and it can drain your battery. If the battery is over four years old you may want to consider replacing it.

Check all light bulbs in your car, and if some aren’t working replace them now. In the depth of winter you may depend on those light bulbs.

Make sure you’re up-to-date and on schedule with changing your oil and oil filter. Most vehicle guides suggest changing the oil every 3,000 miles or so.

Check the date of the coolant that’s currently in your vehicle. If it needs to be replaced replace it with a 50-50 mixture of fresh coolant and water.

Transmission fluid, brake fluid and differential lubricant may need to be replaced if the car is more than three years old. Brake fluids can attract moisture and deteriorate, and lubricants break down. The power steering reservoir should also be checked.

Fill the windshield washer tank with fluid and check the pumps and nozzles to make sure that they’re functioning correctly. Nozzles can be re-aimed by placing a pin inside of them and moving them.

Play it safe and replace the windshield wipers since they’re probably in sorry condition from enduring the summer months. The rubber squeegees need to be in excellent condition to provide you with the best visual conditions possible. Also, make sure you check the wiper arms and springs to make sure they’re in good shape. Rubber-clad wipers can be used during the winter to fight ice build-up.

Always make sure to carry an ice-scraper.

Possibly consider replacing the fuel filter and the air filter if they’re bad. The fuel filters in vehicles tend to trap water, and if that happens it will fail and dump dirt into the fuel injection system. Fuel de-icers can also be put into the tank to keep moisture from freezing the fuel line. Filled gas tanks also keep moisture from forming.

Tires are an essential part of the tune-up. Ehow.com provides seven easy steps for checking tire air pressure. Worn tires will only put you and your passengers at risk during the winter months. If you need new tires, purchase them now. Also make sure to check the air pressure in tires once a month. The tires should be cool before the air pressure is checked. Rotate your tires as recommended.

All in all, a little self-maintenance will keep you and your passengers safer and possibly keep your car out of the shop all winter.


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