The autumn is upon us and leaves are everywhere, here in NY we have even had our first snow! With shorter days, cooler temperatures and inclement weather, now is a good time to get your car ready for the demands of the coming driving season. Although some seasonal car maintenance will require the assistance of a qualified car mechanic, here are five, simple do-it-yourself car maintenance projects to make your auto better prepared for fall and save you the labor cost of having these services done by a mechanic.
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1) Check battery terminals and lights. Many electrical issues and ignition problems stem from loose or corroded battery connections. If you notice corrosion on the posts or cable connectors, use an appropriate brush ($4 per brush.) This is a very inexpensive, yet handy tool that you can get at any auto parts store. And clean both (posts) completely, and then reconnect everything snuggly and securely.
2) Check your spare tire and make sure it is properly inflated. Tire pressure drops one PSI, or pound per square inch, for every 10-degree drop in temperature, according to the AAA, so check your tires on a weekly basis. The proper inflation pressure will generally be listed in your vehicle’s owner manual and/or noted on a sticker located on the driver’s door-jamb.
3) Replace your wiper blades every fall. Studies show that wipers are used more in the fall and winter. Be aware that some cars will require same-sized blades for the driver and passenger sides, while others will require a longer blade for the driver-side wiper. So, be sure to consult the in-store sizing guide to buy the right ones. And don’t forget to buy a third blade if you own a hatchback, station wagon or SUV, with a wiper for the rear window.
4) Replace the air filter. At a minimum, engine air filters ($11.50 to $53 per filter, depending on brand) should be replaced twice per year as part of car maintenance. So, if you haven’t done so already, replacing your car’s air filter is a good idea. When an air filter reaches the point where it causes enough of a pressure drop to restrict airflow, the car’s fuel economy, performance and emissions begin to deteriorate, getting progressively worse until the dirty filter is replaced.
5) Check and top off fluids. In fall, windshield-washer fluid needs to be replaced with a solvent that is suited for use in cold weather. The washer fluid costs $2 to $4 per gallon, depending on the brand and whether it has antifreeze mixed in. Autumn is also a good time to check your level of antifreeze ($10 to $16 per gallon) in the coolant recovery reservoir. In this car maintenance move, if you find that you are below the required minimum stamped onto the side of that opaque container, add the appropriate quantity of properly diluted fluid to that reservoir and not to the radiator. Make sure that you use the correct fluid because green and orange antifreeze/coolant cannot be mixed. Checking the brake-fluid reservoir is also a good idea. If the level is low, top it off with the appropriate type of brake fluid ($3.50 to $17 per container, depending on the type).
6) As part of regular car maintenance, and for safety, make sure all of the car’s lights are working; it’s important for you to see, as well as be seen, during autumn’s longer and darker nights. Replacement bulbs will typically cost a dollar or two, with the exception of headlight bulbs, of course. They’re considerably more expensive, but you can replace them all quite easily on your own without tools and save yourself a hefty labor charge in the process.
Just some tips to get your car ready for the cooler weather even if you aren’t, as always, DRIVE SAFE!