Fall Auto Care Tips Checklist
Whether it’s road-tripping across the country or shuttling kids to various sunny-day activities, many drivers log extra miles in the summertime. Hauling extra weight inside, on top and behind your vehicle is also a common summer occurrence. Extra miles and weight, coupled with extreme heat, can lead to potential problems that may not make themselves known until months down the road. Here is a list of some specific areas of fall auto care that you should pay attention to before the seasons transition completely over to colder days.
Test your battery. A poor battery may work fine in the summer but a full charge is necessary to start your car in the colder weather. A trained expert like those at Thurston County Transmission can inspect your battery and charging system, and perform a replacement if necessary. Loose cables or any signs of corrosion upon your visual inspection are red flags that your battery needs attention sooner rather than later. Even if your battery looks great, better to schedule a professional check than to end up stranded in the cold.
Get a brake check. Many auto shops offer free brake inspection. If the brake light is glowing on your dash or you can hear your brakes grinding, those are clear signs that you need your brakes checked and/or brake pads replaced. (If you know where to look you can also visually inspect your brake pads, which should be about a quarter inch thick, through your wheel spokes in most cars. In some vehicles it is necessary to remove the tire.) A vibrating brake pedal, or the car feeling like it brakes too fast or too slow, are also indicators of a problem with your braking system. Bottom line, a brake check won’t hurt, and could potentially save your life, especially in the unpredictable weather of fall and winter.
Switch out your windshield wiper blades, and top off your wiper fluid. Wiper blades are a vital feature and yet easy to take for granted. You likely don’t give them any thought until the moment you have to turn them on. Don’t wait until that moment of truth to realize your blades are operating poorly or not at all. Worn-out or broken wiper blades can easily go from a minor annoyance to a major hassle, or even tragedy. Fall is the ideal time to replace wipers as you’ll be using them all season, and into the winter.
Windshield wipers are a cheap and easy fix, even if you have very little automotive knowledge. Wipers typically cost around $10-20 and simply snap on and off. You can even refill wiper fluid yourself, and it is recommended to replace fluid with a special cold-weather formula for the cooler months. The trickiest part may be ensuring that you buy the correct replacement wipers. If you are sure that your old wipers are the correct ones, simply bring them with you into your favorite auto parts shop, or even shop online. If you aren’t positive which wipers you need, you may consult a trusted auto repair shop. If you drive an SUV, hatchback or station wagon, be sure not to neglect those important rear wipers.
Top off your anti-freeze. Freeze is the operative word here. And when does it freeze? You may not want to admit it but, depending on where you live, freezing weather could be just a few short months away. Be sure to pour anti-freeze into the coolant reservoir and not into the radiator! Also take care to use the proper coolant as the different types of anti-freeze fluid (green or orange) cannot be mixed/interchanged.
Check your spare. Spare tires located on or underneath the vehicle are especially perceptible to wear and tear, but all spare tires should be inspected and have their pressure checked on a regular basis. (In trucks and SUVs with the spare mounted underneath, the mechanism holding the tire should also be inspected often.) The air pressure in your tires drops as the temperature goes down, making the transition from summer to autumn an especially important time to keep a consistent eye on the pressure in all of your tires.
Access your lights. Have a friend or family member give your vehicle a walk-around while you turn on your headlights, tail lights and brake lights. Do this at night if possible, and be sure to test your fog lamps (brights) to ensure they are actually bright. Replacement lights are inexpensive and available at automotive shops, or can be purchased online.
Test out your heater/defroster. Problems with your heater can result in dangerous foggy windows, or being forced to drive around with your windows open – Not fun in the cold. Check front and rear defrosters and, if necessary, have them repaired before the cooler weather hits.
This may seem like a long list of issues to deal with, which is why it’s smart to get a jump on potential fall auto care before the temperature drops. Give yourself a few late summer weeks to get everything sorted. Whether or not you discover any problems, you will have peace of mind moving safely into the new season. If you go through this checklist and something with your vehicle still doesn’t feel right, be sure to get into yourself into a trusted local shop like Thurston County Transmission.