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Money Saving Auto Tips - Are You Prepared For Winter Driving?

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/23/2006 | Auto and Trucks
There are many of us who love the automobile and the freedom that goes along with it. However, nothing lasts forever and all car owners would benefit if they knew more about their vehicle. Large repair bills can be reduced with some basic preventive maintenance and knowledge. The more you know, the more money you will save!

SERVICE AND MAINTENANCE

Questions to ask yourself before taking your automobile to the shop:

-How and when did you first notice the problem?
-Can you make the problem occur? How?
-Are there any abnormal readings on the instrument panel guages,any warning lights coming on?
-Where is the noise coming from?
-How frequently does it occur?
-Does the problem occur when the engine is cold or hot?
-Is the problem related to vehicle speed or engine speed?
-Does the outside temperature make a difference?

The time it takes for a mechanic to start from square one with your vehicle will cost you precious time and money. Prepare a written description about your vehicle problem using the list above and go over it with your mechanic.

WINTER PREPARATION & PROTECTION

Doors & Locks:
Avoid stuck or frozen doors by lubricating the hinges and wiping a recommended preservative on your car door rubber seals, your parts dealer will know what you need. It's also a good idea to have a small can of lock de-icer for frozen door locks, keep it somewhere outside your vehicle.

Windshields:
Your windshield not only protects you from harmful UV rays but accounts for 20 percent of the structural integrity of your automobile. You do not want to run out of washer fluid especially during wet snow conditions. Keep the windshield washer reservoir full with WINTER washer fluid and a spare jug in the trunk. Replace wiper blades once a year or when they start to leave streaks across your windshield.

Lights:
Before that big trip check to see that all your lights are operating properly and easily visible to other drivers. If in doubt get your headlights properly aligned. Check your headlights for condensation inside the bulb, this tells you that the bulb is no longer sealed and will fail sooner than later.

Tires:
Check your tire pressure and tread condition. Good ice and snow tires are recommended on all four wheels. Tires have built-in wear indicators that appear as a bald strip when there is 1.6 millimeters of tread remaining. When this limit is reached it is definitely time for new tires!

Engine Service:
Change your oil to 5w30 for winter driving. This grade of oil flows easier and helps your engine start in the cold. Replace the engine fuel filter at least once a year. One tow-truck bill could buy you a lot of fuel filters!

Battery:
Service your battery by getting it load tested and the terminals cleaned. Check your alternator belt. If it fails your battery will no longer receive a charge and soon lose it's reserve power. Winter driving at night puts a huge demand on your charging system so it pays to get it checked out.

Cooling System:
Get your engine coolant tested and adjusted to prevent the coolant from freezing up. It's recommended to have your cooling system flushed or coolant replaced every two to three years. Check for leaks in your cooling system with a pressure test. This is a quick check that detects any weak areas. Get your engine fan belt checked. It operates your water pump which circulates the coolant and controls the engine temperature. The engine thermostat should be replaced every two to three years depending on vehicle manufacturer requirements.

These tips are very basic and you are probably familiar with a few of them already. The point is if you go on a trip without checking the simple things on your vehicle there is a possibility of trouble down the road. These checks can be done during a routine service visit which will prevent a major failure.

One point to not overlook is finding a good mechanic you can trust and who knows you and your vehicle. A professional auto repair shop will always advise you before going ahead with extra repairs. You can easily find a reputable repair shop by asking for references and doing a background check with the Better Business Bureau in your area.