December 26, 2012 | Back to: News

Tahoe car care: How to prepare your vehicle for winter

TAHOE/TRUCKEE - When temperatures start to drop, it's time to get your car ready for winter. The right maintenance, preparation and tools can be literal lifesavers in harsh conditions.Changing your vehicles oil and filter regularly is a simple way to increase your vehicle's performance, fuel economy and engine life. Unfortunately, most of us drive in severe service conditions. This includes frequent short trips of less than 10 miles, stop and go city traffic, driving in dusty or extreme hot or cold conditions, or at sustained highway speeds.Whatever your driving conditions, frequent oil and filter changes are recommended. The reason - as an engine accumulates miles engine oil breaks down, and accelerated wear can occur and all the engine problems come with it. Remember when you change the oil, it is recommended you change the filter too. It's the engine's main line of defense against abrasion and premature wear. It's an easy way to keep your vehicles performance and avoid unnecessary costly breakdowns.

Now's the time to get your car up to speed on all of its regular maintenance. That means taking care of any fluids that may have been neglected while you were out enjoying the summer sun or going in for that 60,000-mile tune-up if you're due.Check, change and/or top off your oil, coolant, brake and transmission fluid as needed. In the case of your oil or automatic transmission, make sure you get a high-quality filter, too. It may seem like overkill to take care of all of your fluids at once, but it's worth it in the long run.Take a look at the car's brakes too. Are your rotors warped or cracked? Do they have deep grooves or are the pads worn close to their minimum clearance? Your vehicle will be experiencing harsher conditions soon, so its best to deal with any potential problems now.Make sure all your lights are working properly to ensure good visibility. If your blades are more than six months old, odds are it's time to swap them out for new ones. And don't forget to fill the washer fluid reservoir with freeze resistant wiper fluid.

Go ahead and have your tires rotated and inspected. The last thing you need in cold, wet weather is to be driving on bald or dry rotted tires. Err on the side of caution and replace any tires that are too worn.We'd recommend looking into snow (or winter) tires. Winter tires are made with special low temperature resilient rubber compounds and have deep treads that grip unplowed snow and ice. Even the best all-season tires have compounds that get more brittle as the temperature drops, and when that happens, the tires tend to grip less.The winter tire compound remains pliable when temperatures are low, retaining grip and keeping the car's safety systems, like all-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes, functioning properly.Once you've made sure everything looks good, take a look at your tire pressure. With everything up to spec, you'll get better gas mileage and your vehicle will handle and stop better.

Our most important tip is to take the time to get your car's coolant system checked. Extreme temperatures and harsh conditions can knock it out easily if it's not up to snuff. If any part of the system comes up with a shaky bill of health, its time for a repair. That means having your car's radiator pressure tested and the hoses examined for cracks or bulges. Even if everything comes up good to go under the hood, replacing your engine's coolant is cheap insurance against extreme temperatures. Over time, antifreeze can actually generate a weak electrical current, which can then cause oxidation and eventually failure inside of your coolant system.You'll want at least a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water to provide protection against below-zero temperatures. Keeping everything fresh inside will put less stress on your vehicle's hardware and save you serious money in the long run.- Doug Schroeder works Tahoe Blue Automotive. Learn more at www.tahoeblueautomotive.com.

Doug SchroederSpecial to the Sun


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Dec 26, 2012 04:09PM Published Dec 26, 2012 04:08PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.