(NUI) - Failure to get your vehicle ready for winter's conditions can do more than just spoil your holiday travel. In fact, a breakdown in winter could be deadly, warn the experts at the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the nonprofit organization that administers national certification tests to automotive technicians.
ASE offers the following tips to help motorists prepare. Some of the tips are easy; others require a professional technician.
The basics. Read the owner's manual and become familiar with the various components and systems. Follow the recommended service schedules.
Housekeeping. Wash and wax your vehicle to protect its finish. Inspect lights and bulbs. Replace worn wiper blades; keep plenty of washer fluid on hand; carry emergency gear -- a shovel, a blanket, boots, snack food, a car phone, etc.
Engine Oil. The oil and filter should be changed as specified in your manual.
Cooling System. The level, condition and concentration of the antifreeze should be checked periodically. The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. Let the engine cool off before working on the radiator. The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps and hoses should be checked by a professional.
Engine Performance. Problems with rough idling, hard starts, stalling or diminished power should be corrected before cold weather sets in. Describe any changes in performance to the service manager or a qualified technician.
Heater/Defroster. To ensure comfort and safety, the heater and defroster must be in good working condition.
Tires. Rotate tires about every 5,000 miles. The air pressure should be checked once a month; let the tires "cool down" first. Examine tires for cuts and nicks, uneven wearing, and cupping. Check the spare, too. Note that some of today's body styles and tire packages are not compatible with tire chains.
Brakes. Brakes should be inspected as recommended in your manual, or sooner if you notice pulsations, grabbing, noises or longer stopping distances.
Professional Technicians. If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, look for repair facilities that employ ASE-certified automotive technicians.
For a free brochure with winter maintenance tips, send a self-addressed, stamped business-sized envelope to: ASE Winter Brochure, Dept. NU-798, 13505 Dulles Technology Drive, Suite 2, Herndon, VA 20171-3421.
ASE was founded in 1972 as a nonprofit, independent organization dedicated to improving the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive technicians. ASE-certified technicians wear blue-and-white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact area(s) of certification. Their employers often display the blue-and-white ASE sign. More than 420,000 technicians hold ASE credentials.