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Kate on Cars December 2012 - Winterizing Your Vehicle

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Kate on Cars December 2012
Winterizing Your Vehicle

by Kate Jonasse

Winterizing your vehicle is important for safety, economy and reliability. Last year I wrote about some common winterization items. The biggies from last year's article include:

1. Make sure you can see out of your windows. Make sure your wipers are in good condition and don't streak or squeak. Consider applying a water repellant like Rainex to the windshield.

2. Rain makes it harder to stop quickly. Make sure tires and brakes are in tip-top condition.

3. It's got to start for you to get from Point A to Point B. You'll probably want your car to start – have your battery checked, weak ones don't like cold weather.

(email me if you want a copy of last year's winterization article)

There are some parts and systems on your vehicle that you may not immediately consider important winter items. Nonetheless, they can affect your ability to get to where you need to go safety and on time. They are:

Shocks, Struts and Stopping.

These are part of the suspension system on your vehicle. It is vital that they are in good condition, especially in wet and cold winter months. On days when the roads are wet, your suspension system is called to be at it's best. Weak shocks and struts can cause your tires to bounce on the road, which means less traction, greater chance of wheel lock-up, and increased stopping distance. In wet conditions where emergency stops are often required (remember the last time the guy ahead of you slammed on the brakes?), every inch of stopping distance makes a difference. Stopping a foot sooner could mean the difference between preventing an accident, and hitting the vehicle or person in front of you. Making sure your shocks and struts are performing correctly and replaced every 50,000-100,000 miles can help you stay safer on the road. Have your trusted repair shop inspect your shocks or struts and advise you on their condition.

Can you see, and can others see you?

Your vehicle's lighting system becomes even more important with the shorter, darker days of winter. It's important that every bulb in the exterior lighting is all working properly – headlamps, taillamps, brake lamps, turn signals, reverse lamps, fog lamps, and the often neglected license plate lamp. Your headlamps – both high and low – are important so you can see in the dark, and you taillamps and brake lamps are particularly important so that others can see you. If your headlights are not as bright or helpful as you'd like them to be, contact your repair shop and have them inspected by a certified technician. The bulb wattage may not be high enough to provide enough light for you (often upgrades are available for the same price as a lower-wattage bulb) or the aim of the headlamps may be incorrect and in need of adjustment.

Does your Air-conditioning work?

Wait a minute... I said “Winterize” not “Summerize,” right? Well, a little known fact is that your A/C is vital in the winter months as well as the summer months, but for different reasons. While you enjoy the cool blast of air in the hot summer time, in the winter it's the ability of the A/C system to dry air that is important. As air passes through a properly working A/C system's evaporator core, it cools down and the moisture in the air condenses on the core rather than on your windshield. This is a huge safety factor as you are trying to see in the pouring rain with your or your kids hot breath steaming up the glass. I'm sure you've experienced this, we all have. Using your properly working A/C system dries the moisture out of the air, resulting in clearer vision out the windows of your vehicle. Needless to say, seeing is vital to driving safely.

I strongly recommend that you take your vehicle or vehicles into your repair shop for a winter safety inspection, especially if it hasn't been in the shop for several months. Although quick-lube places can be convenient, it's important to have a shop with certified technicians do the inspection, since they are less likely to miss something important. In fact, stop by my shop, K-Tech Automotive, and mention this article to get a free winterization inspection and battery check – no strings attached.

Feel free to email me if you would like any additional winterization tips, or have any questions about your car. And Happy Holidays!