Preparation can reduce winter grief

Taking a few simple precautions, now, can increase your motoring safety this winter season.

Gates Corp., the auto aftermarket?s leading supplier of belts and hoses, offers the following checklist for you and your service technician on how to winterize your car.

? Battery. Icy-cold temperatures can reduce a vehicle?s battery power by up to 50 percent. If the battery is barely turning the engine over now, it is likely to fail during winter. If your vehicle battery is older than three years, have it tested. Also make sure the posts and connections are free of corrosion.

? Oil. Dirty oil makes it harder for the engine to turn over, especially in cold weather, resulting in premature engine wear. Check your owner?s manual for the recommended oil change frequency, and replace the oil with the appropriate grade for the seasonal temperatures in your area.

? Tires. Tires are frequently the most neglected vehicle component but are among the most important. Check tire pressure and tread depth before winter sets in. Under-inflated and worn tires will not provide sufficient traction, especially on wet or icy roads.

? Belts and hoses. Modern materials have made belts and hoses very durable with relatively long lives, but they can deteriorate over time and fail without warning. Gates says that most cooling system hoses fail from the inside.

To avoid an unexpected burst or pinhole leak, Gates suggests replacing the hoses, especially the upper radiator hose, every four years. Belts showing excessive glazing on the top surface, or cracks in the V-ribs, should be replaced immediately. The four-year replacement cycle applies to belts as well.

? Coolant. Inspect the coolant annually. If it has an oily, reddish-brown foam, it may be contaminated by transmission fluid. If the coolant is rusty, the cooling system may need a chemical cleaning and flushing.

It can be tested for the proper 50-50 mixture of antifreeze and water that will offer freeze protection to at least 34 F, and will provide adequate boil over and anticorrosion protection in most cases.

Preparing your car for winter driving is a good investment. Preventive maintenance can save you the cost and inconvenience of a breakdown or the torment of a no-start on a frigid winter morning.