Chicago Auto Show Blog

Essential Fall Car Care Tips

Posted by: Jim OBrill

October is Fall Car Care Month. This is the ideal time to give your car a thorough walk around and inspection before harsher winter conditions arrive. Taking the time now can save some stress that could surface amid frigid temperatures and snow on the ground.


Ten Essential Fall Car Care Tips:

  1. Summer sun can harden and crack wiper blades. Replace them before the rain and snow begin to ensure your visibility is clear.
  2. Check washer fluid. Roads are the dirtiest in the fall after dust and grime collect on roads during the summer and will continue to worsen as salt starts to accumulate. It's always beneficial to keep a spare gallon in the trunk during winter months.
  3. Test the headlights and taillights. Besides looking for burned out bulbs, also make sure the headlights are directed at the proper angle and visibility is good. Aside from bulbs, check the headlights for fogging... it's common in older cars for the clear lenses to start to build up residue and look yellow. There are several different products to correct this as a DIY (I personally found the Turtle Wax product to work best) but alternatively you can also take your car to a body shop to have them buffed out for around $50.
  4. Inspect tires including the spare. Use a pressure gauge to check air pressure and check for wear. Proper inflation and tread wear will be essential driving through wet fall leaves on the street. Many service stations offer free services to check tire pressure and suggest coming by bi-weekly throughout the season. While checking the tires, also check your tread depth to determine if you have enough traction to get you through the winter. One simple test is to insert a penny into your tire's tread groove with Lincoln's head upside down and facing you... if you can see all of his head, your tread depth is minimal and you may want to replace tires before winter.
  5. Test the battery. An old battery that has trouble cranking the car in fall may go dead in winter.  With every oil change, have the technician check on battery water levels. Car batteries generally last around 3-5 years so you can also check the battery to see if you're on borrowed time...some dates will be indicated with a sticker or there is stamp on the batter indicating the year & month. The first number will be the last digit of the year and the second letter which corresponds to the month (A being January, L being December).  So a code starting with 6F would have been manufactured in June, 2016.
  6. Test the heater and defroster to ensure they are working properly. Turn on the heating system to check. Not having used this all summer, it's best to check it before it's needed.
  7. Monitor engine fluid levels. Oil boils and evaporates in extreme summer heat, so check the oil and replenish as necessary. Check other fluids such as the brake fluid, coolant, transmission and power steering fluids as well.  Check the strength of the coolant. Over time engine coolant loses its capacity to handle cold temperatures. While it might be fine in the fall, come winter, the coolant might not be effective and could lead to expensive repairs.  An annual coolant flush never hurts, but at least once every two years is a good idea.
  8. Check belts and hoses. Cracked belts or worn hoses can disable a vehicle in a matter of seconds. Make sure your serpentine belt can make it through the winter and check hoses for leaks. Similar to the wiper blades mentioned, it's easy for these items to dry out in particularly hot summers, which then can crack in an instant when the weather takes a turn.
  9. Give or get your car a proper detail in the fall. Start with a clay bar treatment that will decontaminate things such as summer tree sap, rail dust, and other environmental conditions that's bond to the clear coat. This will give your car a clean surface to apply coats of wax to.
  10. Polish your vehicle with a protective layer of wax. A carnauba wax will give you a deeper shine, but a polymer based wax will protect the paint significantly longer which is more important in an area like Chicago where you want that wax to last through the season. The wax is the barrier that will protect your paint from the outside elements. If you're feeling really ambitious, use a polisher to get any summer scratches or swirl marks out before applying the coat of wax.

One last bonus tip.... Don't forget to pack an emergency kit. Severe winter weather can spell disaster for the unprepared. Keep items such as a reflective vest, road flares, vehicle jack, coats, blankets, snacks, water, shoes and gloves in a small bin in the trunk just in case. You never know what weather or road hazards you may encounter in Chicago.

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