Fall Car Care Special Section: Fall into a vehicle maintenance program

Published on Wed, Oct 12, 2011
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October is Fall Car Care Month, the perfect time to fall into a vehicle maintenance program and get your car ready for winter.

“A thorough inspection of your vehicle this month will go a long way toward ensuring safety and dependability when temperatures drop and wet winter weather strikes,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “A routine maintenance program also makes financial sense, extending useful vehicle life and helping avoid costly repairs down the road.”

Whether you do it yourself or take your car to a professional service technician, the Car Care Council recommends 10 basic maintenance procedures to keep your vehicle operating at its best:

1. Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.

2. Check the hoses and belts to make sure they are not cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or showing signs of excessive wear.

3. Check the battery and replace if necessary. Make sure the connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free.

4. Check the brake system annually and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change.

5. Inspect the exhaust system for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if there is an unusual noise. Exhaust leaks can be dangerous and should be fixed immediately.

6. Schedule a tune-up to help the engine deliver the best balance of power and fuel economy and produce the lowest level of emissions.

7. Check the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system as proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons such as defrosting.

8. Inspect the steering and suspension system annually including shock absorbers, struts and chassis parts such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.

9. Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.

10. Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving.

To help you follow a vehicle maintenance program, a free digital car care guide can be found on the council’s website at www.carcare.org/car-care-guide. The guide includes information on service interval schedules, questions to ask a technician and tips to drive smart and save money.