, Salem, MA

December 15, 2012

Auto Scanner: Getting the car ready for winter

Auto Scanner
Larry Rubenstein

---- — Q: I see a lot of magazine and newspaper articles concerning getting your car ready for winter. Different articles I read talk about different parts of the car that need to be attended to. In the big picture, it leaves me very confused. Can you simplify what should be done to get a car ready for winter?

A: This is a timely letter, and I hope I can simplify the process from bumper to bumper.

Starting at the front of the car, check the headlights, fog lights, parking lights and turn signals. Open the hood, and check the antifreeze quantity and quality. Also check windshield washer fluid. Windshield washer fluid has a summer blend and a winter blend. Winter blend will not freeze in your system during the winter. Using a summer blend, you stand a chance of having a nonworking windshield washer system when you need it most.

Take a look at your radiator hoses. If the radiator hoses are squishy, or the heater hoses are brittle, they need to be changed. If your thermostat has not been changed in over two years, it should be changed as a course of maintenance. If your coolant system has not been flushed in two years, that should also be performed as a course of maintenance. Motor oil should be changed if it is in your car more than three months or 3,000 miles. A look at the serpentine belt should show no signs of cracking. While the hood is open, try to take a look at the air filter. A dirty air filter can rob you of fuel mileage. An extremely clogged air filter can even turn on a check engine light, and continued driving with a clogged air filter can destroy a very expensive catalytic converter. The last two items that should be checked under the hood are the brake fluid and the transmission fluid. Neither of the fluids should look cloudy or have a burnt smell.

Next, let’s take a look at all the tires on the car. If the tire tread is just about even with the wear bars, it may be time to replace your tires.

Now let’s move to the rear of the vehicle. Using a helper, check the brake lights, backup lights, parking lights and your license plate light, of course. Looking into the trunk, make sure you have an emergency first aid kit, a blanket and a flashlight. Also check for proper tire-changing tools in the trunk, and that they are lubricated and in good working order. Also check the tire pressure on your spare tire.

During the winter months, it’s good practice to not let your fuel tank drop under a half-tank.

If you decide to bring your vehicle to a service station to have a winter checkup, include a brake check, as well as a front end check.

Car Care Tip: If you don’t have a mobile phone, buy a low-cost, prepaid phone to keep in the car just in case of emergency.


Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to