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Essential Winter Car Maintenance

Essential Winter Car Maintenance

We're still a few months from the warm weather, and the winter may be taking its toll on your car. To avoid more work in the spring, or worse - an accident brought on by a poorly maintained car, it's important to keep your car in good shape throughout the snowy season.

Pay attention to your tires
Air pressure in your tires changes based on the temperature outside. Warm temperatures cause the air in your tires to expand, while colder temperatures make it contract, decreasing your tire pressure. Low tire pressure means lower fuel economy and less control over your car - and you need all the control you can get in the winter. 

Learn how to check your air pressure with a good quality gauge, and while you're at it make sure that your tires have enough tread. Tread is a measure of how deep the grooves are in your tires, which help your tires grip the road in wet conditions. AAA recommends that you check your tread with a quarter - simply place a quarter in the tread of your tires with Washington's head pointing into the tire. If you can see the top of his head at any point, it's time to buy new tires.

Clean your battery
A battery's lifespan is usually between three to five years, depending on local weather conditions. Batteries generally perform worse in the cold weather, so every time you change your oil, check your battery cables to ensure that they are securely connected to the terminals. Disconnect the cables and look for signs of corrosion - if you see any, make sure that you clean it off with a rag.

If your battery is getting old, get it load-tested at a mechanic's shop. According to Kiplinger, the cost shouldn't be too high, and some car parts stores will even do it for free.

Clear your drainage
In the fall, leaves and other junk can pile up under your windshield wipers. This area is known as the air plenum, and can be damaged over time if you allow it to become clogged. Clear it out every so often, and while you're at it, check your sunroof if you have one. According to Kiplinger, sunroofs have drains too; these drains move water that seeps through the sunroof seal down to the ground.  If you let these become clogged, you could be in for a nasty surprise next time it rains.

Work those wipers
Your windshield wipers have a lifespan of about a year, after which they will be significantly less effective at clearing away rain and snow. In extreme weather, however, the rubber wiper blades can degrade faster. In the winter, you should check your wipers monthly for cracks or stiffness, and replace them if they require it. If you don't have "beam blade" style wipers, you should consider investing in them, as they don't contain external springs which can freeze up in frigid temperatures. 

Some people pull their wiper blades up off the glass when they aren't driving and the weather is cold. This will make your windshields easier to scrape if it gets covered in ice, though some people think that this wears out the spring that holds the blade to the windshield.

Following this advice could help you avoid costly repairs in the spring, an accident brought on by a poorly maintained vehicle, or a potential car insurance claim

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