Tech Tip - October 2007

Carter Automotive
107 West 11th Street
Coffeyville, KS 67337
Phone: (800) 225-4813 (620) 251-4700
FAX: (620) 251-2215

Fall is here, is your vehicle ready for winter?

With October comes the start of Fall and winter weather is just around the corner. Is your ride ready to keep you going through the first frosty nights and early snow storms? Here are some key areas you should check over to get ready for the cold months ahead.

  1. Tires: Tires should be properly inflated and of the mud and snow variety for good winter traction. Tire treadwear indicators are there only to show when a tire has reached the end of it's useful life under mild conditions. A tire's winter snow, ice and mud traction is actually compromised earlier. Many sources say 4/32 but a tire tread looses much of its effectiveness in snow and ice after half the tread is gone (6/32-8/32 left). One good solution for many is to run a dedicated set of snow tires during the winter months. A good rule of thumb for this geographic area is to put your snow tires on during Thanksgiving weekend and change them again for your regular all-season tires on St. Patrick's day in the spring. Stored tires should be cleaned and protected from sun-light.
  2. Battery: Cold weather will test your battery's reserve storage capacity and cold cranking power. If it is a maintenance free battery, check the sight glass to make sure it is holding its charge well. If you can open the resevoirs, make sure the water level in each cell is covering the plates inside and if necessary, top off with distilled water only. Make sure terminals are tight and free of corrosion. Always wear safety goggles when working with the battery and make sure plenty of ventilation is present to blow away any hydrogen gas buildup.
  3. Radiator and Hoses: Keep your cooling system keeping you warm in the winter by checking it over now. Coolant must be of the correct strength to keep from freezing. Use a hydrometer to check the concentration and add fluid or distilled water to keep the level between the lines on the overflow jug. Most manufacturers recommend flushing the cooling system and replacing with fresh coolant at certain mileage intervals. Squeeze the upper and lower radiator hoses while the engine is cool to check for cracking, dry rot or stiffness and replace them if necessary.
  4. Belts: Your car cannot go far with a broken belt. Belts operate critical engine functions such as water pump and fan, battery charging, a/c operation (and defrosting during heavy rains) and also assist with power steering. Belts age by cracking on the inside. Check the inside of each belt for signs of cracking or age and replace as necessary. A squeeking belt can temporarily be quieted with a can of belt dressing, but this is usually a short term solution. Belt tensioners are also a wear item that can cause squeeking if they weaken. Your automotive service center at Carter's can help you identify the root cause of your belt problems and recommend an affordable solution.
  5. Wiper Blades and Wiper Solution: Fall is a good time to replace worn or stiff wiper blades and switch over from summer wiper juice to the de-icing winter version. Wiper blades that are weak or starting to crack will quickly come loose from their mounts during the first ice storm or if they freeze to the windshield. Winter wiper juice contains more alcohol and de-icing additives and will do a better job keeping your windshield clear during freezing weather.
  6. Emergency safety and first aid kit: Keep a few simple things in your car or truck can make any stay by the side of the road a bit more comfortable. A blanket for warmth; a large candle and pie tin; some dried or canned meat or fruit; some bottles of water; basic first aid supplies for cuts, scrapes and sprains; some small games or cards to keep young kids occupied; spare batteries and flashlight for signaling or working on the vehicle; can of fix-a-flat; tire chains that fit your tires if you have a set; black trash bags for insulation or to lay on if working; dry socks, gloves, boots; warm cap; hand warmers; ice cleats for boots or shoes; salt, sand or cat litter to put under tires to help get going. Keeping these simple items in your vehicle can help you survive and even be comfortable during a long wait by the side of the road. Remember not to let your engine run contstantly for heat and to make sure the exhaust pipe remains clear from snow. Keep a window cracked for ventilation and use the candle for heat and light to preserve your batteries.

Whatever you do, it's a good idea to remember a tried and true fact of automotive wisdom: sooner or later something will go wrong with your car - your only choice is if you want to take care of it on your terms before it happens or on the road's terms when it happens naturally due to wear and tear. It's a whole lot more comfortable doing routine maintenance in your own garage or letting the service team at Carter's help you out now, then trying to do repairs by the side of the road in a freezing drizzle or digging it out of a snow drift after the plows have buried it deeper in the ditch after a big snow storm.

Keep your family safe this winter by taking a few steps in advance to get your vehicles ready for the winter weather that is sure to come along, and let Carter Automotive be your partner in winter weather preparation. We're here to help!

Print me and take me to one of the 6 Carter Automotive locations in SE Kansas. Our friendly and knowledgeable counter staff will help you find the perfect parts for your application at the right price.