(NewsUSA) - As the temperature drops, car batteries produce less power, belts and hoses become more brittle, tires lose air pressure and engine oil thickens. In a few words, winter is tough on vehicles.
"Marginally operating systems can fail outright in extreme weather," notes Martin Lawson, editorial director for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
The following tips from ASE will help motorists prepare for winter's toughest conditions:
The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked to prevent breakdowns and potential engine damage from freezing or overheating. The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps and hoses should be checked at the same time.
Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual. In extremely cold regions, switching to winter-grade oil, which has a lower viscosity and makes starting your vehicle easier, may be necessary.
Get engine problems, like hard starts, stalling and rough idling, corrected early, since cold weather makes existing problems worse.
Replace worn, streaking blades. If your winters are especially harsh, get rubber-clad (winter) blades. Carry extra windshield-washer solvent and a quality ice-scraper.
Can't recall when you bought a new battery? A weak one is likely to fail in the winter. Have its charge checked at a good repair shop to be sure.
Tires. Balding tires are useless in winter's snow and slush. Replace them with all-season tires, or snow tires if your region gets heavy snow. Check the air pressure of all tires including your spare.
Carry gloves, boots, blankets, a winter coat, flares, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, tire chains, a flashlight, a cell phone, and some non-perishable snacks.
Clear all snow and ice off your vehicle before driving. Keep headlights and taillights cleaned of snow and road grime for visibility -- yours and the other drivers'.
ASE was founded in 1972 to improve the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive professionals. ASE-certified technicians wear blue and white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact area(s) of certification, while their employers display the blue and white ASE sign. They can be found at all types of repair facilities from dealerships to independent garages and franchises. Visit www.ase.com for more seasonal car care tips.
Remember to keep your car in tip top running condition all winter with this helpful basic car maintenance checklist for the cold weather months.