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Troubleshooter: It’s not too early to think about winter prep

Troubleshooter: It’s not too early to think about winter prep
Autos
A man scrapes ice and snow off of his car following a winter storm that brought snow, rain, and a flash freeze on January 20, 2019 in Quincy, Massachusetts.Scott Eisen / Getty Images

No, we’re not talking about a stuffy and running engine intake or nagging exhaust coughs, but what changes our driving styles and distances have experienced due to the current pandemic and what that means for pre-winter maintenance.

Even if you returned to a somewhat normal commute after the initial lockdown, your odometer probably shows a lot less driving over the last six months. More than a few drivers from coast to coast skipped their seasonal tire changeover this past spring, and are still riding on winter/snow tires. So everything is great, right? Just an oil change if the dash reminder says so, and we’re ready to go for winter, right? Well, not so fast.

Considering our winters are harder on our vehicles than any other season, a little extra attention in the fall can pay off big time in avoiding frosty weather breakdowns. Just about every repair shop will offer some type of pre-winter inspection, in combination with an oil change and winter tire installation. If you’re like many who opted to leave your winter tires on, you likely didn’t have any type of comprehensive spring inspection. While less driving can certainly reduce wear and tear, it can also bring a unique set of conditions to these particular components that bear some looking into.

Yes we know winter tires are good, but what about all-weather tires?

First, if your engine oil reminder indicates you’re good for at least another 1,000 kilometres, skip the oil change, even if it’s part of the special. You should see a reduction in those charges accordingly. As well, a good hoist inspection should include brakes, steering, suspension, and exhaust. Unless your vehicle was totally stationary for a good month or more, you’re unlikely to see any repairs or maintenance requirements, save for some surface rust removal and perhaps lubrication of certain brake parts, such as caliper slider frames.

As you’ll face more than a few potholes, snowbanks, and likely engage ABS more often than not over course of winter, having a solid start with everything in operational order will go a long way to keeping you and everyone else safe. Make sure the cabin filter is part of the inspection — it almost always is, and for clear and quick windshield defrosting, you’ll need as much clean air flowing as you can get. A dirty filter can reduce that volume.

If your vehicle’s hasn’t thrown any warning lights yet, just wait. Sudden drops in temperature, along with alloy wheels and their somewhat porous nature can reduce air pressure enough to trigger alerts. If you don’t have a good pencil-style air gauge in your glove box, get one. Then find your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure (usually on a sticker on the driver’s side door jamp) and label the gauge with that number. This means never having to look for it in a rush, or depending on someone else to take care of it for you.
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