September may not seem like an ideal month to winterize your vehicle
, but I could make a case that it’s the perfect month for this service.
Too many motorists leave fall/winter auto maintenance until the temperature drops below freezing or until the first snowfall.
If you are one of these procrastinators, I urge you to have your vehicle serviced sooner, rather than later. One of the benefits in doing so now is to avoid the rush and delays at service departments. When sub-zero temperatures hit, service departments are backed up and wait times can be long.
In consideration of fall/winter auto maintenance, here are some key items that should be checked to ensure that your vehicle runs safely and efficiently:
Winter tires have special compounds that allow for better traction on cold and icy surfaces than summer and all-season tires. They also reduce stop times and offer hydroplaning resistance. New car dealerships sell competitively-priced winter tires for all makes and models, and they offer tire storage as well. Make sure that your spare tire is properly inflated and check tire pressure on a regular basis throughout the year. Improperly inflated tires increase tire wear and tear, and gas consumption.
: Have a licensed auto technician check your brakes, brake fluid and wheel alignment. Excessive wear on brakes could result from improper wheel alignment. Failing brakes can lead to damaged brake rotors, calipers and suspension, which will cost more to repair. If your brakes show excessive wear, replace them.
: Now is a good time to check your car’s heater and defroster. If it takes too long for these systems to work, the heating controls could be clogged or broken, or the thermostat could be deficient. If you suspect any of these symptoms with your heater/defroster, have them repaired.
Operating a vehicle with faulty lights poses a safety risk. Check all of your exterior lights, including headlights, tail lights, parking lights, brake lights and emergency flashers. Replace any lights that are broken. Plus, don’t ignore dashboard warning lights. A red light requires immediate attention while an orange light points to an issue that needs to be addressed soon.
Poor visibility is the cause of many dangerous driving situations and collisions. Replace worn out wiper blades so that your vision is not impaired. This is especially important in winter driving. Some experts recommend changing wiper blades every year. Consider installing winter wiper blades, which are more reliable than standard wipers in harsh conditions. If your windshield is cracked, it should be replaced as you will wear out your wipers faster. Also, make sure that your windshield wiper fluid is topped up and that you carry a spare jug or two in your trunk.
It’s no fun discovering you have a defective battery — especially on a freezing cold morning when you have to go to work. A licensed technician will determine the strength of your battery and check for loose cables and signs of corrosion.
This check is a must at this time of year; a deficient cooling system can lead to overheating and engine damage. This maintenance procedure involves checking fluid levels (coolant/antifreeze), radiator pressure cap and hose, fan and fan blades, drive belt, and for internal leaks. Make sure that your coolant is tested not to freeze to -45 C.
Most new car dealerships offer fall/winter maintenance packages that include many, if not all, of the aforementioned services.
Arrange to have your vehicle serviced before the snow and cold weather arrive to ensure your safety and maintain the value of your vehicle.
This column represents the views and values of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to tada.ca. Cliff Lafreniere is president of the TADA and is president of Pinewood Park Motors (Ford) in Kirkland Lake. For information about automotive trends and careers, visit carsandjobs.com.