With the fall season in full swing and the winter season gearing up to greet us soon, it is not only the home maintenance and repairs, food supply, and emergency plans we should be worrying about. We should be preparing our vehicles for the harsh weather as well.
And for those who don’t know yet, October is National Car Care Month – the time of the year when we are reminded to get our cars ready for the colder months ahead.
While most of us love the sweater weather, autumn roads pose driving challenges that we should all expect and be ready for to avoid engine breakdowns and ensure road safety. You surely don’t want to get yourself stuck on the road in a vehicle unprepared for fall and winter.
Before we discuss some of the essential car maintenance tasks you should be doing this fall, let’s talk about why we want our vehicles to be prepared for the cold season.
Importance Of Preparing Your Car For Fall
- Daylight is shorter in the fall and winter months, which means that you will have to drive more when it is dark. Preparing for fall will help ensure your safety when driving in the dark during the cold seasons.
- Road conditions are more challenging, and traffic is slower at this time of the year. Drivers are taking more precautions and driving slower because of the dark roads, fallen wet leaves making the road slippery, school kids arriving and leaving the school area, and the potential of more active animals crossing the streets in preparation for the winter. Without performing the much-needed maintenance on your car, it won’t be able to stay in good condition for long.
- Driving in cold temperatures can negatively affect your car and cause it to behave differently. Low temperatures can freeze engine fluids, cause car batteries to give out, interfere with how your car’s parts and connections work together, and some parts shrink or get rigid and brittle. Ignoring these potential problems can cause costly damage which can otherwise be easily prevented.
- Preparing minimizes the potential for more significant problems in the future. We’ve probably heard this maxim a lot of times, but it’s worth repeating here: in anything, prevention is always better than cure.
Now that you know why it is essential to prepare your car for the cold season, let’s talk about the tips that will help you keep your car running in optimal conditions.
Preventive Tips For Fall Car Care Month
The ideal time to prepare your vehicle for the low temperatures is before the fall season hits, but if you still haven’t done any maintenance work on your car yet, it’s not too late to start now. Here are some tips that will help keep your vehicle in good condition.
1. Check your lights.
Properly working lights are critical during night driving when your eyes can have trouble adjusting to the lack of light and limited visibility. To prevent problems along the way, check that your headlights, turn signals, brake lights, and interior lights are working correctly. Replace bulbs that are not working, and always keep spare bulbs in your car in case of an emergency.
2. Check your wipers and windshield.
Make sure that your windshield provides the best visibility when you are on the road. Regularly check for chips and cracks and hire a professional for repair or replacement if needed.
You will also have to check and replace wiper blades more often as the temperature drops. In general, wiper blades should be replaced every six months or earlier once you see streaks or missed spots on the windshield glass.
3. Check your car’s fluids.
Your car’s different fluids need to be checked to ensure that specific systems will function correctly. Here’s your checklist:
- Engine oil
Your car’s motor oil is one of the essential fluids that keep your vehicle running efficiently, second to fuel. Check that the oil level is not at or below the minimum, then add more oil if it is. You will also need to check the condition of the oil – if it feels gritty or has a dark color, your car needs an oil change, or there’s an issue with the components, and it needs to get checked and fixed.
- Transmission fluid
Transmission fluid lubricates the internal components of your car’s engine to keep it running smoothly. During the harsh winter weather, it can thicken and make it difficult for your vehicle to shift gears and, later on, increase the risk of engine failure.
To avoid such problems, check and top up your car’s transmission fluid level regularly. To check for a leak, check how quickly the fluid level goes down. When you suspect a transmission fluid leak in your car, contact a full-service auto repair service to assess and fix the problem correctly.
- Brake fluid
Brake fluid is as vital as the other fluids in your car. It ensures your car’s brake system is working correctly, and a low brake fluid level can pose a safety hazard for you and other drivers. However, it often gets ignored and left unchecked. When was the last time you checked your car’s brake fluid?
Check and refill your brake fluid level regularly or visit the Heart Auto Care location nearest you for a hassle-free brake fluid check, refill, and replacement.
- Windshield washer fluid
Windshield washer fluid may seem minor compared to the other engine fluids in your car. The truth is, without proper wiper fluid, visibility will be poor, and driving safely in harsh freezing weather will be nearly impossible.
Make sure to choose a suitable wiper fluid for your car, and keep in mind that cold weather can freeze a standard windshield wiper fluid. Ensure that your windshield washer fluid can resist extremely low temperatures and won’t freeze in your car’s reservoir.
- Power steering fluid
Just like other fluids in your vehicle, the power steering fluid can also harden, blocking the flow of liquid, and the pressure can then cause your power steering hose to burst. To avoid this problem, switch to synthetic fluid and always ensure that the fluid level does not reach the minimum level.
- Anti-freeze or coolant.
This colored liquid ensures that your engine operates at the correct temperature. In the cold months, anti-freeze keeps the water in your radiator from freezing, but it is also essential for any month of the year. It serves as a coolant that keeps your engine cool and prevents it from overheating during summer.
The beginning of fall is an excellent reminder to keep your anti-freeze level in check and ensure that the level in your reservoir doesn’t drop below the minimum. To be sure, check your car’s anti-freeze/coolant level every two weeks and refill as needed.
It is also good to check the quality of your antifreeze fluid. If it looks cloudy, it must be flushed and refilled with a fresh coolant. In general, we recommend replacing the anti-freeze liquid every two years or every 30,000 miles.
4. Inspect your car tires regularly.
Inspect your car tires at least once every month and always before long drives. Check if they are adequately inflated and fill them with air as necessary. Also, check your tires’ tread depth by doing a penny test and check for any visible cracks, punctures, or bumps.
To ensure safety driving, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends replacing car tires every six years.
It is sometimes difficult to keep track of your car’s maintenance. Keeping a regular maintenance record will help you make sure that maintenance routines and appointments are kept in a timely way.
Don’t wait for freezing temperatures to start preparing your vehicle. Driving unprepared for the upcoming winter season can cause significant problems with the car or on the road, costly repairs, and even accidents. Using the tips we shared above, plan and prepare ahead of time, and you can rest assured that your fall and winter driving will be safe and stress-free.
Need help with your car maintenance? Heart Auto Care is a full-service auto repair company servicing Northbrook, Evanston, and Wilmette areas. Request an appointment today.