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With trees mostly bare by now, it’s a signal to us that winter is just around the corner. Whether you’re a serious DIYer and enjoy being hands-on with your vehicle or you prefer to have a shop take care of this for you, it’s a good idea to check our your vehicle’s systems to help ensure trouble-free motoring.
Battery and Charging System – Have the battery and charging system tested by a trained technician. A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather. A battery that was getting a little weak was up to the job in warmer weather. As the temperature drops, engine oil gets thicker, making the engine harder to turn over, and battery output drops. A shop, or even some parts stores, can check the battery’s power output and not just its state of charge.
Battery Cables and Terminals – Make sure the battery terminals and cable ends are free of corrosion and the connections are tight. If you choose to clean them yourselves, you can use a solution of baking soda and water. Be sure to wear goggles to keep the green gunk and acid out of your eyes!
Drive Belts – Inspect the underside of accessory drive belts for cracks or fraying. Many newer multi-rib “serpentine” belts are made of materials that do not show obvious signs of wear; to ensure they do not slip, these belts should be checked with a plastic belt-wear gauge (available at parts counters), or replaced at 60,000-mile intervals if there is any doubt.
Engine Hoses – Inspect cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses and replace any that are brittle or have an excessively spongy feeling, which indicates internal wear. This means the hose is getting thin and increases the chance of a burst hose, or at least a pinhole leak.
Tire Type and Tread – We don’t get heavy winter weather in the St. Louis area that often, but if you have an occupation where you just have to get to work on time in the aftermath of a snow storm, installing dedicated winter tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. All-season tires work well in light-to -moderate snow conditions, provided they have adequate tread depth. Replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread (see last month’s blog: “Is It Time for New Tires?) Uneven tire wear can indicate alignment, wheel balance, or suspension problems that must be addressed to prevent further tire damage.
Tire Pressure – Check tire inflation pressure on all four tires (don’t forget the spare) more frequently in fall and winter. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker, typically located on the driver’s side door jamb.
Air Filter – Check the engine air filter by holding it up to a 60-watt light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.
Coolant Levels – Check the coolant level in the overflow tank when the engine is cold. If the level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and distilled water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. Test the antifreeze protection level annually with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.
Lights – Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs.
Wiper Blades – The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots. In regions where snow is common, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup that can prevent good contact between the blade and the glass.
Washer Fluid – Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components to prevent it from freezing.
Brakes – If there is any indication of a brake problem, have the system inspected by a certified technician to ensure all components are in good working order.
Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids – Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels.
Emergency Road Kit – Carry an emergency kit equipped for winter weather. The kit should include:
Mobile phone programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers, including family and emergency services, and car charger
Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves)
Flashlight with extra batteries
Window washer solvent
Ice scraper with brush
Cloth or roll of paper towels
Warning devices (flares or triangles)
Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
About Spirit West Rapid Refinish
Spirit West Rapid Refinish, established in 2011, was formed to focus on providing quality service for customers who are paying out of pocket for automobile repairs and to streamline the workflow volume. We take great pride with teamwork and our commitment to making sure our team receives training on the latest innovative state-of-the-art equipment and collision repair techniques. We are proud to say our team is family and we treat our customers like family too. Whether you need minor collision repair services, bumper repair or vehicle paint, give us a call today to see how we can restore your vehicle to its original factory finish.
Spirit West Motor Carriage, founded in 1977, is a full-service auto body repair shop serving the St. Louis and surrounding Metro area. For nearly four decades, our family-owned business and our experienced staff have been providing quality auto collision repair, mechanical, paintless dent repair (PDR), complete paint refinishing, and wheel and framing alignment services.