Fall is officially here—time to break out our comfiest sweaters and bundle up as temperatures start to drop. Now is the perfect time to brush up on fall car care tips to prepare your vehicle for the colder months ahead. As early as now, there are steps you can take to ensure that your car stays roadworthy from fall and through the winter season.
At the same time, being diligent with maintenance can save you thousands of dollars in unwanted repairs in the long run. To help you get started with some car care: fall vehicle maintenance, here are five tips that every car owner should know.
Protect your car’s paint job from leaf stains
The changing colors of foliage may look picturesque, but the damage that dead leaves can do to your vehicle isn’t as pretty. Wet leaves left on top of your car can stain your paint from the tannic acid and sap they produce as they decompose.
The best way to avoid this problem is to park your vehicle in a covered garage. If this isn’t possible, you’ll need to clear the leaves on top of your car by hand every day. Using a leaf blower or a broom isn’t recommended because the leaves may scratch your car’s paint.
Most of us don’t have the time or the patience to do this by hand every single day. In this case, a more practical option is to use a car cover each time you plan on parking your vehicle by a tree.
Regularly washing your car also helps prevent stains from permeating the paint. As soon as you see any discoloration, you should treat the spot with denatured alcohol or distilled vinegar before washing it with car shampoo.
Check your tires
As road conditions become slippery, having a reliable set of tires is critical for your safety. All-season tires with the right tread depth grab onto the road better, even as your area begins to experience light snow flurries.
A simple check you can do is to use a penny to determine the level of tread wear on your tires. Simply insert the penny, with Lincoln’s head upside down, into the tire’s groove. If you can see his entire face, it’s time to have your tires replaced.
Your tires may also start to look more deflated as the weather gets colder. When the temperature drops every 10°F causes the tire pressure to go down by one to two-PSI. Be sure to top up your tires with enough air to improve the drivability of your vehicle.
Beware of slippery roads
Driving over wet leaves can be as dangerous as slipping on black ice. As more places experience rain and early morning frost, drivers should take extra care on the road. It is safer to drive over piles of leaves slowly and avoid braking hard to prevent slipping.
Piles of fallen leaves may also obscure road and lane markers, so be mindful when switching lanes. Also, remember that these could also cover potholes and other road hazards. To be safe, drive slowly and always maintain a safe distance from the car in front of you.
Replace dim headlights
Every day, we lose 1 to 2 minutes of daylight after the autumnal equinox. As nights grow longer, having a pair of functioning headlights is critical to driving in the dark. Check if your lights have become dim or if the bulbs are starting to flicker.
You can check your headlights by asking a friend to stand in front of your vehicle to observe the lights as you switch them on from inside the vehicle, or you can park facing a blank wall and observe the reflected light.
Have your vehicle checked by a professional
Cold weather has a way of making pre-existing problems with your car worse. Aside from following these tips for fall car care, you should make it a point to have your trusted mechanic check your car for any parts that need to be repaired or replaced.
As early as fall, you should have your windshield wipers checked to make sure that they are still in good condition. You don’t want to wait until a snowstorm in winter to find out that your wipers aren’t working.
Now is also a good time to have your trusted mechanic check your vehicle’s cooling system. Before temperatures drop to freezing levels, your car’s cooling system must have the recommended antifreeze to coolant ratio.
Low antifreeze levels can cause your coolant to freeze. A frozen radiator will be unable to cool down the engine, causing it to seize. On the other hand, too much antifreeze can cause extremely high temperatures that will result in your engine overheating. A pre-mixed 50/50 solution made up of water and antifreeze is recommended for the cooling system.