There's nothing like an auto breakdown to turn you into a Grinch. Besides dampening your holiday spirit, mechanical failure can be dangerous in winter's harsh conditions. Here are tips from the experts at the non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) to help keep you snug and safe. Some of the tips are easy; others require a professional technician.
Read the owner's manual and follow the recommended service schedules. Even today's rugged SUVs and trucks need routine care. Safety First. Inspect lights and bulbs. Replace worn wiper blades; carry emergency gear-a shovel, sand or cat litter for traction, a blanket, boots, snack food, a cell phone, etc. Battery. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment, but motorists can clean corrosion from posts and cable connections. (Wear eye protection and gloves.) Cooling System. The level, condition, and concentration of anti-freeze should be checked periodically. The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. (Let the engine cool down before removing the radiator cap. The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a professional technician. Engine Performance. Rough idling, hard starts, stalling, or diminished power needs to be corrected before cold weather sets in. Describe any changes in performance to the service manager or a qualified technician. You'll improve your gas mileage, too. Tires. Rotate about every 5,000 miles. Check air pressure monthly; let the tires cool down first. Examine tires for cuts and nicks, uneven wearing, and cupping. Check the spare, too. Professional Technicians. Look for repair facilities with modern equipment, polite staff, and ASE-certified automotive technicians.
ASE-certified technicians wear blue and white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact area(s) of certification. Their employers often display the blue and white ASE sign.