Auto maintenance prevents being driven wild by breakdowns

Posted: Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Anyone who's spent a few winters in Alaska knows that it can get a bit chilly outside from time to time. And that can mean bad things if you've got to spend your idle time sitting outdoors all day parked alone on the hard, cold asphalt.

For your automobile, winter can be a stressful, painful time. The cold weather and icy streets can play havoc with automobiles designed to run in much warmer climates. But with a few minor bits of preventative maintenance, you can save yourself and your car a lot of grief this winter.

Bill Hall is the store manager of the Soldotna Shucks Auto store. He said there's a few simple things everyone should do for their automobile before the cold sets in.

He said the first thing is to make sure your car is properly equipped to handle the cold.

"One thing they should do is test the antifreeze," he said.

Making sure antifreeze is good to handle temperatures that can get as low as 20 degrees below zero is essential to making sure your engine stays healthy.

If your vehicle is not equipped with an engine block heater either the kind you plug in overnight, or the quick-heating type you should strongly consider getting one.

"A lot of people have heaters," Hall said.

Also, he said to be sure you've got winter wiper blades, jumper cables and that your washer fluid is kept full.

One of the best ways to make sure you don't have an unexpected breakdown, he said, is to get your automobile tuned up before the winter. That way, he said, any nagging problems can be corrected before the cold turns them into a major issue. And getting a little work now can mean savings for your peace of mind and your pocketbook this winter.

"We do free electrical tests," he said. "You don't want to be going over (Turnagain) Pass and have your alternator go out."

Other things drivers might want to remember before the snow flies include getting studded snow tires, checking to make sure fuel injectors are clean and making sure you're using the right kind of fuel. Diesel drivers should be aware that gas stations will soon be switching to winter fuel, which means drivers should make sure not to mix old and new fuel, as it can lead to engine problems.

Now is a good time to get the little things done that will ensure your car is running strong when breakup rolls around things like checking your oil and fluid levels or making sure you've got a strong battery.

Finally, whether it's checking your antifreeze or getting a tune-up, the bottom line is winter driving means you have to always be prepared for what's up ahead. That's why Hall said one of the most important things to remember during the winter is something people often overlook until it's too late.

"Make sure you've got good headlamps," he said.

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