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Fall Car Maintenance Tips

Regularly scheduled maintenance is tremendously important to keeping your vehicle operating in peak condition, but it’s also worth considering seasonal maintenance. The changing weather and driving conditions present different challenges from season to season, and your car maintenance should change along with it. Now is a great time to explore the ways you can get your car ready for autumn and beyond.

Before doing anything else, it’s important to understand the overall health of your vehicle. Late fall and winter can be especially hard on your car, potentially exacerbating existing issues and turning minor problems into much bigger and costlier ones. If your car is experiencing common symptoms such as rough idling, difficult starts, sluggish performance or engine noises such as ticking or knocking, be sure to have the issue addressed before the weather turns bad. Also, take the time to inspect your belts and hoses because cooler weather can be rough on rubber components.

Once you’ve verified your car’s overall mechanical health, it’s time to move on to the battery. Few things are worse than stepping out into a frigid morning only to discover that your car won’t start. Unfortunately, this scenario happens all too often during the winter months. Cold conditions can sap 30 to 60 percent of your car battery’s charge, so take advantage of the benign fall weather to test your battery and ensure that you won’t run into issues when the mercury drops. This can be done at home with a multimeter, and many auto shops offer free battery tests as well.

Although it can be done at any time of year, fall is generally considered the best time to change your vehicle’s wiper blades. Wipers are used most heavily in late fall and winter, so making sure that your blades are able to effectively clear off slush, snow and road grime is key for safe driving. If you’ve recently changed your wiper blades, inspect them to verify that they’re still pliable and free of cracks or other damage. Wipe the blades clean regularly and clean them at least once per month with a soft cloth and a bit of denatured alcohol.

Your wiper blades are not the only safety concern you should have. Your tires are, quite literally, your vehicle’s only connection to the road. When they become worn or underinflated, they suffer reduced performance and may even become a safety hazard. This is especially critical during fall and winter when driving conditions can deteriorate quickly. Take the time to carefully inspect your car’s tires during the fall to verify that they have adequate tread and are properly inflated. Studies have shown that tires begin to lose their effectiveness in the snow at tread depths below about 5/32 of an inch, so it may be worth replacing any tires that are below this threshold.

As the last respite before a long, cold winter, fall is your final chance to get your car ready to handle whatever the elements can throw at it. The final part of this preparation should include a thorough tune-up, which includes an inspection of your car’s spark plugs, wires, distributor cap and rotor. Any components that show signs of wear or compromised performance should be replaced with new parts. Since cold weather is especially hard on electrical systems, a tune-up is one of the best ways to prevent unpleasant surprises once the weather turns chilly.

References:
http://www.ase.com/News-Events/Publications/Car-Care-Articles/End-of-Summer-Marks-Perfect-Time-for-Car-Care.aspx
http://www.bankrate.com/finance/auto/5-easy-diy-car-maintenance-moves-for-fall-1.aspx
http://www.tirerack.com/winter/tech/techpage.jsp?techid=163

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