Victoria Car & Vehicle Maintenance & Fall-Winter Checkup

As temperatures fall, and daylight hours shorten, the extreme weather season will be upon us, increasing the likelihood of a breakdown. Cold weather breakdowns are more dangerous to motorists since exposure to the elements can be deadly. Most winter breakdowns ARE preventable.

Here are a dozen car-care tips to keep your engine and vehicle performing properly, as the temperatures begin to drop.

  • Use the 3 P's for safe Fall & Winter driving: Prepare with maintenance checks, Protect yourself by buckling up (and use child safety seats), and Prevent dangerous situations by being alert, driving slower and avoiding fatigue.
  • Check your anti-freeze for proper strength. It should be good to -35 degrees Celsius. Buy only ethylene glycol-based fluid with low freezing and high boiling points, and dilute to manufacturer's instrucitons (typically 50/50 with tap water). The recommended anti-freeze lifetime is two years or 30,000 miles.
  • Check your windshield wiper blades. Replace your wipers, especially for night driving and encounters with rain, sleet and snow.
  • Check your motor oil. Review your owner's manual for the manufacturer's recommended winter rating.
  • Wiper-washer fluids... keep your reservoir full with winter washer fluid -- a solvent that is good to 10 degrees below zero. Be sure your wiper fluid is clean.
  • Check your other fluid levels: brake fluid, power steering fluid, and automatic transmission fluid
  • Check Belts and Hoses: Check all rubber belts and hoses... any that are cracked, frayed or worn should be replaced before winter. Ditto any that are wet from oil. Cold winters make rubber brittle, and cause failures in any weak points.
  • Check your tires and tread depth. Depending on local driving conditions, remove the summer tires and install a set of snow tires (or at least all-season tires). Driving in colder conditions and on icy, snowy roads requires as much traction as your tires can deliver. Replace them if you see worn tread or sidewall damage.
  • Check your Battery, Electrical System: Check your battery and charging system. Fall and winter driving requires more power from your battery, so consider buying a stronger, heftier battery. Batteries lose power as the temperatures drop - so not only do you need more power to start the car, but you also get less power from your battery. Check for loose cables or terminals. Locate your booster cable and move to a convenient spot in your vehicle.
  • Check the headlights, taillights, reverse lights and signaling lights for problems - at least once every few months. Have someone walk around the car and observe while you test the brakes and turn signals.
  • Keep your gas tank full, and keep it above half-full at all times, If you get stranded or stuck in gridlock, your engine is your only source of heat.
  • Double-check rear window defroster: If some of the lines don't work, they can be repaired.
  • Winter emergency kit: Keep these must-have winter items in your trunk... heavy duty jumper cables, flashlight, emergency flares, ice scraper, snow brush, small shovel, abrasive material (sand, kitty litter), blanket, gloves, heavy socks, winter boots, and tire chains for snowy areas.
  • Plan your route: Allow plenty of time (checks the weather and leave early), be familiar with map/directions, and let others know your route and arrival time.
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