If you’re getting ready for a summer road trip or plan to take your car out for its first spin of the season, here are seven things you should inspect before you get behind the wheel.
1. Tires. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and have sufficient tread. Do the same for the spare and make certain you have a jack and lug wrench in the trunk.
2. Lights. Ask someone to stand outside your car as you turn on your headlights, brake lights, and reverse lights to ensure that they’re working.
3. Windshield wipers. Make sure your wipers are in good condition and can effectively clear your windows. You should also inspect the sprayer and top off the windshield washer fluid.
4. Fluids. Inspect the oil as well as the brake, power steering, and transmission fluids. If any of these run out, your car’s components may get damaged.
5. Battery. Inspect your battery for signs of corrosion, cracks, and leaks. Test it with a battery tester, voltmeter, or multimeter. Alternatively, you can get it inspected and tested by a mechanic. Batteries should be tested twice a year and replaced approximately every five years.
6. Undercarriage. Look under your car for leaks. A fluid leak can cause your steering or braking system to fail.
7. Air conditioner. Make sure your air conditioner is working well. Also, check the heating for those chilly mornings when you need to defrost the windows.
If you notice any issues during your inspection, make an appointment at your local garage.
Car care: 6 key fluids to check before winter
The fluids in your car help ensure that its various components, the engine included, can operate at their peak. Before winter arrives, it’s essential to ensure they’re topped up. Here are six fluids you need to check.
1. Motor oil
Motor oil lubricates and cleans the engine, thereby reducing friction between its moving parts. Wait about 15 minutes after turning your car off to check the oil level. When refilling the oil, gradually add small quantities until the maximum level has been reached.
2. Brake fluid
3. Transmission fluid
Transmission fluid lubricates moving parts, facilitates gear shifts, and cools the transmission. To check how much of this fluid your car has, start the engine and inspect the transmission dipstick, typically located on the driver’s side of the engine compartment. In some manual transmission cars, the dipstick is difficult to access and the task of checking the transmission is best left to a professional.
Coolant is responsible for heat transfer in the engine and prevents damage caused by boiling or freezing. The coolant reservoir is transparent and found near the radiator. It should never be opened while the radiator is still hot. It’s recommended that you check the reservoir for leaks every few weeks and change the coolant according to your car manufacturer’s recommendations.
5. Gear oil
Also called differential fluid, gear oil lubricates the gears that transfer power from the driveshaft to the wheel axles. Get your gear oil level checked by a mechanic before winter.
6. Power steering fluid
Power steering fluid is essential to the functioning of the power steering system in vehicles with this feature. Power steering fluid needs to be changed about every four years or when the liquid has turned light brown. The reservoir is located in the engine compartment and marked with a steering wheel symbol.
In addition, make sure to keep an eye on your windshield washer fluid level. Winter road conditions can quickly cause a mess and being able to see clearly will keep you, your passengers and other road users safe.
Pros and cons of studded tires
Driving on icy roads is hazardous, even if your car is equipped with winter tires. For extra traction in winter driving conditions, some drivers use studded tires. Here’s what you should know about them.
What are studded tires?
Studded tires have small metal studs that protrude a fraction of an inch from the tire. The studs claw into frozen precipitation on roadways, thereby improving traction.
How are tire studs installed?
Note that stud sizes vary, and you’ll need to select the correct stud size for your tire model.
What are the advantages to tire studs?
Studded tires increase your car’s traction on icy roads. When drivers accelerate, brake, or turn on ice or hard-packed snow, the studs work in conjunction with the winter tire tread to improve the car’s handling.
There are, however, a few drawbacks to studded tires. For one thing, when the road isn’t icy or snowy the studs will decrease traction, as the tire tread won’t adhere to the road as well. In addition, they can produce additional road noise and take a toll on paved roads, as studded tires wear down the pavement at a higher rate than normal winter tires.
If you plan to use studded tires, make sure you get the studs removed when spring arrives. In fact, in most states, there’s a specific time frame (usually encompassing five to seven months) during which the use of studded tires is permitted. Also note that there are some states, such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois, where the use of studded tires is prohibited.
5 accessories for warm winter driving
If you’re tired of sitting in a chilly car, treat yourself to greater comfort this winter. Here are five accessories that will help keep you warm.
1. Remote car starter
Nobody likes getting into a cold car. With a remote car starter, you can safely turn on your car a couple of minutes before leaving so that it’s nice and toasty when you climb in.
2. Heated car seat covers
3. Heated steering wheel cover
People who don’t like wearing gloves while driving can opt for a heated steering wheel cover instead. This accessory puts a warm, breathable layer between your hands and the wheel. Plus, heated steering wheel covers come in a variety of styles.
4. Leather gloves
A good pair of driving gloves not only keeps your hands warm but also offers protection, flexibility, and grip. Look for quality leather driving gloves with polyester, wool, or cashmere lining.
5. Windshield de-icer
With a windshield de-icer, you can spend less time out in the cold scraping your windshield. De-icer formulas are able to melt away frost, ice, and snow in a matter of seconds, allowing you to make quick work of an otherwise tedious chore.
Finally, make sure to be careful on the road. The last thing you want is to get stuck standing out in the cold waiting for a tow truck.
Winter tires: 3 mistakes to avoid
If there are snow and ice on the roads, winter tires will help keep you safe while driving in these conditions. Here are three mistakes people are prone to making when it comes to installing them.
1. Waiting to put them on
Summer tires and all-season tires stiffen up when the temperature dips below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, thereby reducing their ability to grip the road. Winter tires, on the other hand, remain supple, providing optimal traction in cold weather. For this reason, it’s best to consider the temperature when deciding on what date to install your winter tires.
2. Skipping the inspection
3. Choosing the wrong ones
Are you shopping for a new set of winter tires? If so, be aware that certain tires perform best on snow while others do better on ice. It’s important to take into account the road conditions you encounter most frequently. Also, consider your individual driving habits.
Though winter tires can improve traction when it’s cold out, they should be removed once the temperature rises above 45 degrees Fahrenheit for longer than a week. Winter tires wear out faster on warm, dry pavement and don’t perform as well as all-season and summer tires in these road conditions.
5 tips for picking out a car for your teen
Are you buying your teenager their first car? If so, here are five tips for choosing the right vehicle for your teen.
1. Focus on safety features
Even if you choose an inexpensive car, safety features aren’t something you want to skimp on. Features such as anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control are a must. More advanced safety features like blind-spot warning systems, backup cameras, and lane departure warnings are good to have.
2. Size it up
3. No sports cars
Driving a sporty car may give your teenager the urge to speed and drive recklessly. A car with less horsepower is a better choice.
4. Look at the safety ratings
Consult the IIHS crashworthiness ratings to find out which cars will best protect your teenager in the event of a collision.
5. Opt for connectivity
It’s hard to keep teens off their phones. To help prevent your teenager from texting while driving, consider getting a car with smartphone connectivity.
Regardless of which type of car you buy your teen, be sure to impress on them the importance of safe driving before you hand over the keys.
Pop quiz: are you a winter driving whiz?
Winter driving can be hazardous, but being well-informed can help keep you safe. Here’s a lighthearted quiz that will point you toward the information you need.
1. How often should you change your windshield wipers?
A) Every full moon
B) Annually, in the fall
2. When should winter tires be installed?
A) Once the outside temperature drops to 45 degrees Fahrenheit
B) Once the birds begin their migration
C) At sunset on a Tuesday
3. How often should you wash your car in winter?
A) About once a month
B) Never: the snow will clean it
C) As often as your neighbor does
4. What should you do if your lock freezes?
A) Force your key to turn the lock and pray that it doesn’t break
B) Blow on the key to heat it up
C) Use a lock de-icer (sold in automotive shops) or heat the key with a lighter
5. What emergency items should you equip your car with in winter?
A) A shovel, windshield washer fluid and warm clothing
B) A blanket, pillow and sleep mask
C) A bikini, sunscreen and flip-flops
6. What should you do if you find yourself behind a snow removal vehicle?
A) Put the pedal to the metal and weave around it
B) Be patient: the road conditions are sure to be better behind the vehicle anyway
C) Wildly honk your horn to show your annoyance
7. What should you do if the back of your vehicle starts to skid on ice?
A) Slam the brakes and scream like a banshee
B) Let go of the wheel and close your eyes so you don’t see what happens next
C) Slowly turn the front wheels in the direction of the rear wheels while looking where you want to go
Congratulations — chances are pretty good you aced it!
1-B, 2-A, 3-A, 4-C, 5-A, 6-B, 7-C