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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Better Late Than Never When it Comes to Winterizing Your Car

It's time to fess up. You didn't winterize your car and it really could have used some attention, especially with below freezing temperatures striking many parts of the United States. Now what? The good news is that you're not alone and it's not too late.

The Car Care Council reports that 70 percent of motorists don't winterize their vehicles in preparation for winter. There's still time though to have the battery, antifreeze, wipers and wiper fluid checked to help avoid "no starts" and breakdowns and ensure safety and visibility during harsh winter driving conditions, the organization says.

Very cold temperatures will reduce a vehicle's battery power so it's important to keep the connections clean, tight and corrosion-free. Unfortunately, batteries don't always give warning signs before they fail completely. If your vehicle's battery is three years old or more, it's wise to replace it. When choosing a replacement, make sure the new one has adequate capacity for your exact make and model.

For antifreeze, the owner's manual will have usage specifications but the mixture of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your vehicle's radiator is typically 50:50. When properly mixed, antifreeze and water provide excellent anti-freeze, anti-boil and anticorrosive properties. As a reminder, don't make the mistake of adding 100 percent antifreeze as full-strength antifreeze actually has a lower freeze point than when mixed with water, the council says.

Cold weather can affect the life of windshield wipers. Freezing temperatures can make the rubber hard and brittle and increase the potential for cracks. Wiper blades that are cracked or torn, or that chatter, streak and don't properly clean your windshield should be changed. Some manufacturers offer special winter blades that have a rubber boot covering the arm assembly to keep snow and ice out. When changing the blades, have the windshield wiper system nozzles cleaned and adjusted ifnecessary, and check the windshield washer reservoir in case it needs fluid.

The council recommends changing to low-viscosity oil in winter, as itwill flow more easily between moving parts when cold. Drivers in sub-zero driving temperatures should drop their oil weight from 10-W30 to 5-W30 as thickened oil can make it hard to start the car. It's also good to allow your car a little more time to warm up when temperatures are below freezing to let the oil in the engine and transmission circulate and get warm.

Tire pressure should also be checked as tires will lose pressure when temperatures drop. Lastly, don't forget your winter emergency kit that should include an ice scraper, flashlight, blankets, extra clothes, candle/matches, bottled water, snacks, gloves, flares, a first aid kit and needed medication.

"Below freezing temperatures can stress out a vehicle, as well as itsdriver," says Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "Motorists who invest an hour or so to have their vehicles checked will have peace-of-mind and one less thing to worry about as the harsh winter conditions continue throughout much of the country."

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4:48 PM  

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