Winter forces changes on cars

Being stranded in the middle of nowhere is the last thing any driver wants to think about. Add being stranded in the freezing cold with blowing wind or snow and the thought is worse.

Most people aren't prepared for winter driving at its worse, but it is not that difficult or expensive to rectify.

To some people, winter car care is a yearly chore that goes along with owning a car, but to others it is not in their normal routine to check tire tread, antifreeze and fluid levels, belts and hoses or the battery when winter approaches.

One of the first things to do is get the battery checked. On some modern batteries there is a "self-check" bubble, but that is not always reliable. It is best to take the time to have the battery checked by a professional.

"We specialize in a free diagnostic," Battery Masters owner Perry Evans said. "Even if the lot's full we can have you (checked) out in about 15 minutes."

Evans recommended regular battery checks when weather's extremes approach.

"Get (your battery) checked after three years and before winter or extreme heat," Evans said. "Hot weather destroys a battery, but the cold just drains power."

In order to have proper traction in the snow and ice, tires should be at their best. Tires can range in prices depending on what car you drive, but they can be checked by a local tire dealer.

"You can check them for tread depth yourself, but it's best to have a tire dealer check them out," said Scott Cooper, of Cooper Tire and Auto Service. Cooper Tire does a free inspection of your tread wear. If you have more than 8,000 miles on your tires, Cooper recommends having them balanced and rotated.

Changing the oil is not only important to the car's longevity, but it is also the cheapest regular maintenance item that needs to be done. Typical recommendation for an oil change is three months or 3,000 miles and whether you go to the dealership or one of the other auto maintenance chains such as Midas, the cost is about the same, roughly $18 to $20.

A driver can check the other fluid levels, belts and hoses on his or her own. They should make sure the antifreeze is full to the top of the radiator or the fill line on the auxiliary tank, as well as check that the brake fluid, oil, transmission fluid and windshield washer fluid are all full.

According to the AAA Hoosier Motor Club, drivers should allow their engine to warm up for one to two minutes before driving in freezing weather. Drivers should also inspect wiper blades and replace them if they are worn. Lubricant can be used on the trunk and door locks.

In case of a breakdown, drivers should keep a small shovel, bottled water, imperishable food and warm blankets in their vehicles.


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