Fall automotive tips

Winter is coming, which is why you should consider taking your car in for service

By Jens Nielsen

As we enter into fall and, very soon, winter again, there are some important things for vehicle owners to take care of.

The first step is to book your vehicle in for a fall service to have everything checked over. This would include all the standard things like getting oil changed and having the brakes and suspension components checked. It also would include having your oil pan heater, block heater, and battery blanket checked to make sure they are still working and in good condition. Having your windshield washer fluid and antifreeze checked to ensure they are ready for cold temperatures. During the summer, you may have added water to top these up and thus diluted these fluids.

Ask your repair shop to check your wiper blades. Dirt, dust and mud over the summer will have worn your and pitted your wiper blade. When this happens, they won’t perform as well as they should, when you need them most.

It’s time to start thinking about swapping to your winter snow tires. There’s a lot more to snow tires than the tread. Snow tires are designed to perform best at colder temperatures. The rubber is designed to stay soft and grip when it’s below 7 C. When temperatures warm up, you will not get a crisp response from snow tires. The rubber on snow tires is very flexible and will wear quickly, and probably unevenly, in warm temperatures and on dry pavement. Summer tires are a harder compound which will give you better performance, and better fuel economy, in warm weather.

Book your car in to have the tires swapped as soon as you think you’re ready. Once the first snowflake falls everyone will be rushing to get their tires swapped so if you wait for the last minute (like everybody else) you may experience wait times to get into your favorite tire or repair shop. For most people, it is likely better and safer to run snow tires on pavement for a few weeks than to run summer tires on snow for a few weeks.

While you’re getting your tires swapped it’s a clever idea to have your wheel alignment checked. Over the summer you may have travelled down bumpy back roads with potholes, and other conditions can throw your alignment off. This can cause uneven tire wear and premature wearing of suspension parts. It can even affect fuel economy. It’s important that your vehicle steers and tracks properly. It can be a safety issue. Spend the money to have it checked.

Dusty roads can cause havoc on air filters and cabin air filters. Dirty air filters can affect fuel economy by as much as 10 per cent. Dirty air filters can also affect engine performance, and eventually even fail, causing engine damage that would not be covered by your warranty. It does happen. Clogged cabin air filters can affect the performance of your heat and air conditioning systems and reduce the air quality inside your vehicle. Keeping them both clean is a worthwhile investment.

Fall is also a wonderful time to give your car a full cleaning, both inside and out. Start by going through the trunk, all compartments, and under the seats. Remove anything that accumulated over the summer that’s not needed through the winter. Put camping and other summer items in a marked box and store out of the way in your garage. It will be ready to go next spring.

We tend not to clean our cars during the cold days of winter. Dirt and debris has built up over the summer. This dirt and debris can affect working components in your car, and cause unnecessary wear and tear. It’s important to the long-term health of your vehicle to clean it all out. If you’re feeling lazy or just don’t have the time, book it into a detail shop. It just feels great to hop into a nice clean car.

Check to ensure your vehicle has a winter safety kit that would include booster cables, safety flares, warm gloves, hat and boots, a safety blanket and maybe a few energy bars.

Pull out your extension cord for plugging your vehicle in and get your timer set up if you use one to have your engine and battery heaters come on during the night. It’s much easier to do this now than after the snow flies.

While these fall tips may all seem simple and obvious, it’s amazing how many of us don’t do them or wait until the last minute to do them. If we have the discipline to do these things our car will last longer and give us fewer problems.

Having your vehicle clean, serviced, and ready for winter roads is a necessity living in the North.

Catch Driving with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.