Q: I see a lot of magazine and newspaper articles concerning getting your car ready for winter. Different articles I read talk about different parts of the car that need to be attended to. In the big picture, it leaves me very confused. Can you simplify what should be done to get a car ready for winter?
A: This is a timely letter, and I hope I can simplify the process from bumper to bumper.
Starting at the front of the car, check the headlights, fog lights, parking lights and turn signals. Open the hood, and check the antifreeze quantity and quality. Also check windshield washer fluid. Windshield washer fluid has a summer blend and a winter blend. Winter blend will not freeze in your system during the winter. Using a summer blend, you stand a chance of having a nonworking windshield washer system when you need it most.
Take a look at your radiator hoses. If the radiator hoses are squishy, or the heater hoses are brittle, they need to be changed. If your thermostat has not been changed in over two years, it should be changed as a course of maintenance. If your coolant system has not been flushed in two years, that should also be performed as a course of maintenance.
Motor oil should be changed if it is in your car more than three months or 3,000 miles. A look at the serpentine belt should show no signs of cracking. While the hood is open, try to take a look at the air filter. A dirty air filter can rob you of fuel mileage. An extremely clogged air filter can even turn on a check engine light, and continued driving with a clogged air filter can destroy a very expensive catalytic converter. The last two items that should be checked under the hood are the brake fluid and the transmission fluid. Neither of the fluids should look cloudy or have a burnt smell.