Is Your Car Ready for Winter?

Is Your Car Ready for Winter?

(ARA)- What's the last thing you want to happen when heading off to school or that mountain getaway you've been looking forward to? If you're driving to your destination, the worst case scenario would be for the flashing "Check Engine" warning light to come on, leading to your car breaking down.
Prevent that road trip from turning into a nightmare by doing a little preventative maintenance. Whether you take your car to a mechanic, or do the maintenance yourself, here's a checklist to follow before you pack up and head out:
1. Check your engine oil.
Most people get their oil changed every 3,000 miles. Before leaving on a long trip, it's a good idea to do it again, just to make sure levels are adequate and your vehicle is running clean.
2. Check your antifreeze.
Lowering your engine's freezing point with antifreeze is an essential part of your car's winter protection. Make sure the fluid level is full with a mixture as close as possible to 50 percent water, 50 percent antifreeze.
3. Clean your battery posts.
If you want your car to start quickly and easily, don't allow dirt and grime to build up on your battery terminals. Keep them as clean as possible.
4. Inspect your spark plug wires.
Cracked and/or frayed plug wires can impact your vehicle's performance, gas mileage and overall reliability. Make sure yours are in top shape.
5. Inspect your tires.
Tires lose pressure when they get cold, so be sure to check them and add air if necessary. You should also check your tire's tread to make sure they are ready for winter driving. An easy way to check is to take a Lincoln-head penny and insert it head-first into the most worn part of your tire tread. If you can see Abe's head, he may be telling you to get a new set of tires. Don't forget a full-size spare tire and snow chains, especially if your trip involves snowy or icy terrain.
6. Inspect your brakes.
Your safety and well being rest on your car's brakes. Never cut corners. Be sure yours have adequate padding left to get you through the season.
7. Replace your wipers.
A good working set of wipers is critical especially when driving in rain, sleet and snow. With such moisture coming from the air, and salt, dirt and grime being kicked up from the road, it takes wipers that are in tip-top shape to keep your windshield clean and you safe.
8. Check your windshield washer fluid.
You'll be using a lot of fluid as you try to keep your windows clean. Fill the reservoir before leaving on your trip, and bring along an extra bottle just in case.
In addition to such preventative maintenance, put together an emergency kit that includes jumper cables, a flashlight, basic tools - such as such as a pocket knife, wrench and screwdriver, an ice scraper and brush, a fully charged cell phone, first aid supplies, warm clothing, blankets, hats for everyone, water and non-perishable food. Also include some carpet strips or kitty litter for traction in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow, and a nifty glovebox mechanic that will help you figure out what to do if the "Check Engine" light comes on when you're thousands of miles from home.
Think the chances of that happening are slim? It happens more often than you may think -- and not just in the winter. According to a recent Harris Interactive survey, an estimated 10 percent of the drivers on the road right now have a vehicle with a "check engine" light on.
If the light has been on for a while, it probably doesn't mean the vehicle is in imminent danger of failure. But it could mean that a sensor has failed, the catalytic converter is going bad, the vehicle has a loose gas cap, which reduces gas mileage, or the vehicle recently underwent service and failed to reset itself. But how do you know for sure? By using CarMD, the only consumer electronics device and software system designed to help drivers monitor their vehicle's health and emissions output.
Simply plug the easy-to-use handheld device into the vehicle's computer (there's usually a port under the steering wheel) and wait a few second for it to beep. A green light indicates nothing is wrong, which is a positive indication before taking a road trip. A yellow light signals a possible problem and a red light means there is a current problem and service is required - particularly before you head out on a long trip.
If you get a yellow or red light, for more in-depth information, simply plug the tool into a personal computer or laptop using the included USB cable. The CarMD device will connect to the company's Web site and provide a comprehensive report on your vehicle's health, including most likely problem, estimated fix and repair costs in your area so you can get your vehicle healthy and back on the road.
To learn more about "Check Engine" light maintenance or to order a CarMD device, visit www.carMD.com.