3 Ways to Prep Your Car for FallWe may be in the dog days of August, but like it or not, fall is lingering just around the corner. And just as your wardrobe changes with the seasons, the arrival of fall means it may be time to make some minor alterations to your car to make sure you are prepared for the cold and slick months ahead.
Owners of older cars should be especially attentive to maintenance issues. The average vehicle on the road is a record high 11.4 years old, according to market research firm R.L. Polk.
What do you need to do to make sure your car is ready for fall? Ernie Lanning, service director at Phil Long Ford of Motor City, Colorado Springs, Colo., has these three recommendations:
It may come as no surprise that your tires are the most important part to check come the beginning of fall.
"People wear their tires out, and when you start getting to wintertime and in wet and snow conditions, people neglect their tires," says Lanning. "The next thing you know, you get a big snowstorm, and they're slipping and sliding, and you're not understanding why.
While replacing your tires may not be cheap – four new tires can cost from $500 and up – it's an important safety and maintenance issue that can save you major dollars and headaches down the road.
Your tires "should be inspected at every oil change," says Lanning. "People should look at the conditions of their tires every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Look at the treads, rotate tires and check out the alignment."
Get in the habit of doing a walk-around of your vehicle regularly, Lanning suggests, to give your tires a quick visual evaluation. Once a month use a good-quality gauge to ensure that the tires are inflated according to the recommended air pressure (check the owner's manual.)
Most people don't give the condition of their battery a second thought – until one day, seemingly out of the blue, it doesn't work.
"Everyone thinks their batteries can go more than five years," says Lanning, "but you'd be surprised at how often they fail."
Drivers should check the condition of their batteries and make sure the terminals look clean. If not, they might start to corrode, and once that process starts it's only a matter of time before a battery begins suffering from performance problems. "All it takes is that one start where it doesn't work, and it's going to get you upset," says Lanning.
While not necessarily as pressing an issue as your tires or battery, people with older cars should be certain to check on their coolant levels before the weather starts to get colder.
"If you have an older car, the coolant level will deteriorate," says Lanning. "In the winter time, you definitely want to make sure you have the right protection on the coolant." Check the coolant at every oil change, Lanning says, even though the life is 100,000 miles.