Preventive maintenance on vehicles can help ward off some winter woes

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2003

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 preventive maintenance, you can save yourself and your car a lot of grief this winter.

Alvin Diaz is the manager of the Kenai Napa Auto Parts 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.

"You should be making sure it's all winterized. Check the antifreeze, the thermostat. A lot of people should have block heaters," he said.

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.

"It makes it not so hard on the engine," Diaz said.

Also, be sure you've got winter wiper blades, jumper cables and a roadside emergency kit, "in case you do have a stall," Diaz said.

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 makes them a major issue. And getting a little work now can mean a savings for both your peace of mind and your pocketbook.

"It can be a lot less expensive to do now than to wait," he said.

Other things drivers might want to remember 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.

Diaz said now is the perfect 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 and 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 Diaz said one of the most important things to remember during the winter is something people often overlook until it's too late.

"It's going to be dark," he said. "Check your headlights."

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