Winter will be here faster than most of us like to admit, so fall is a great time to get your car ready for the weather changes ahead. Most of us have not put many miles on our vehicles lately, this makes proper fall car care even more important.
Here are the six most important fall car care steps we recommend to prepare your car for the cooler season, especially when it has been on the road less than usual.
Change Your Windshield Wiper Blades
Windshield wipers are critical to driving visibility. Typically windshield wipers should be changed one to two times per year. This is because the rubber on the face of the wiper tends to dry out over time. In addition, rubber tends to remain pliable the more it is used. So with less use than normal this year, it’s almost guaranteed that your wipers are due to be changed.
Likewise, your wipers might send you clues it’s time for a replacement: you might hear squeaks, feel a skip, or see smears and streaks on your windshield. These are signs your wiper blades are not making proper contact with your windshield. When this occurs, you should make a plan to change your windshield wipers.
Check Your Tires
Like windshield wipers, your tires are made from rubber. However, this is not the reason you should be checking your wheels and tires as the seasons change. When it comes to tires, a change in the weather is the top reason for a seasonal adjustment. This is because the pressure in your tires changes as temperatures get colder. Specifically, each 10 degree temperature shift will result in a 1PSI change in your tires. It’s important to check your tires and make sure they are properly inflated for the cooler weather ahead – both under-inflation and over-inflation can cause your tires to rupture.
If your vehicle is a 2007 model year or newer, your vehicle will likely have a pressure monitoring system. These systems are highly sensitive, and your tire light may come on when the temperature changes more than 40 degrees to give you an extra prompt to take action. Note: you may have to refer to your vehicle’s owners manual to correctly reset the pressure monitoring system after inflation.
And, while you’re checking your tires, inspect the treads on your tires to make sure they are in good condition and wearing evenly. Want to learn more about your vehicle’s tires? Discover important facts about your tires here.
Check Belts and Hoses
Similar to wiper blades and tires, there are additional items that tend to wear with use. Open the hood of your vehicle and check for cracks and leaks in all hoses. Check for fraying or splitting of belts. If any of the above is visible to the naked eye, it’s time to bring your vehicle in to have it inspected by a professional technician.
Install Rubber Floor Mats
Time to switch out or cover your existing cloth or soft material floor mats. Rain, snow and heavy dirt can ruin the floor mats that came with your vehicle. Rubber mats will protect the cabin floor and prevent water from seeping through to the vehicle body and possibly cause mold to grow. Installing rubber floor mats is a simple action that immediately contributes to your overall fall car care.
Check and Top Off All Fluids
Your windshield washer fluid may not have the correct solution in it if you use a de-icer in the winter. Make sure you have enough windshield washer fluid, and that the correct fluid for winter is installed.
The coolant in your vehicle is part of the engine and heating systems lifeblood. Make sure that the overflow tank is full, and that the correct color fluid is in the reserve. Any good mechanic can test the fluid and make sure that the proper temperature mix is in the tank as well. If the proper mix is not used the solution can frost or freeze in the system causing both minor and major issues with your vehicle. A resource like Openbay can help you find quality mechanics in your area who can test the fluid in your vehicle. And, if you are testing the fluids on your own, be sure to NEVER open your system when the vehicle is hot, you can suffer severe injuries from scalding hot fluid.
Power steering and transmission fluid are less prone to temperature changes; however, it is always a good idea to check all fluid levels including these. Finally, depending on where you live, the engine oil may have to be changed to a different viscosity. Extremely cold climates can cause oil to become thicker, so a lower numbered SAE (society of automotive engineering) fluid might be recommended. Check your owner’s manual for details.
Have a Technician Test Your Battery
Batteries are notoriously susceptible to rapid temperature changes. A good chilly morning always used to be the busiest day for battery and roadside service calls, especially for cars with a battery that is more than 4 years old. Be sure to have a quality technician test the cold cranking amps on the battery in your vehicle.
Roadside calls can be expensive, so these fall care care tips can save you both time and money. And, when you’re ready to get back on the road, you may even consider taking some time for a scenic fall road trip. You can plan safe and healthy travels using this helpful AAA COVID-19 Restriction Map, and be confident your car is ‘road ready’ for the season ahead.
Fall Car Care Checklist: Preparing Your Car
Follow this Fall Car Care Checklist to prepare your car for cooling temperatures in the weeks ahead.
- Replace your windshield wipers if you haven’t changed them in the past 6 months
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated
- Check belts and hoses for wear
- Install rubber floor mats to protect your cabin floor from the elements
- Check and top off all fluids: Change your windshield washer fluid to a de-icing version if you live in a colder climate, check your engine coolant, and change your engine oil to the best viscosity for your vehicle and climate
- Have a quality technician test your battery including the cold-cranking amps
Is it time for a fall car care check up? Start with Openbay to find a quality local auto repair and maintenance. Compare estimates, choose a shop and schedule an appointment, all in one convenient place.
Written by Rob Grant, Automotive Operations Manager at Openbay. Rob is an ASE Certified Technician and frequent contributor to this blog, specializing in all things automotive service and repair.