Bay County Building
515 Center Avenue
Bay City, Michigan 48708-5941

Winter Automotive Checklist

As all Midwesterners know, winter usually brings with it driving snow, blistering wind, and slick ice. Ample preparation and planning for the winter driving season can make the difference between a minor inconvenience and a potentially dangerous situation. This winter checklist is a guide to readying yourself and your car for the challenges ahead.

Autumn is a perfect time to familiarize yourself with the basic functions of your motor vehicle and where essential components are located. Your best reference is the owner's manual, which details the ins and outs of your car, down to the maintenance schedules and fluid requirements. Once you've consulted the owner's manual, be sure to have a certified automotive technician check the following:

Wipers, Tires, and Lights
Make sure your wiper blades are inspected; they should be replaced every six months. Check your windshield washer fluid level as well, and top it off if necessary. Tires also should be inspected for wear and to be sure they are properly inflated. Before hitting the road, all lights and signals on the vehicle should be operational.

Your motor vehicle's oil filter should be changed every 3,000 miles or three months-whichever comes first. The air filter should be inspected, too, and replaced every 7,500 miles. Fuel filters should be checked for clogs or leaks. A thorough inspection of the ignition system should include spark plugs and wires, distributor, emission system components and the fuel-injection system. If necessary, have an auto technician tune the engine.

Cooling System
Check the level and freezing point of your vehicle's radiator fluid. The freezing point should test to at least 35 degrees below zero. If necessary, add a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water (the water reduces the corrosive nature of antifreeze). Check all hoses; they should not be excessively soft or brittle. The cooling system should be flushed every other year.

Braking System
Check the brake fluid level. If your car's brakes squeal or pull the vehicle to one side when applied, or if the pedals feel soft when pumped, have the brake system inspected.

Check the transmission fluid level of your vehicle. Add fluid and change the filter if necessary. On rear-wheel drive cars, check the level of fluid in the differential.

Underneath the Car
Lubricate the steerage linkage according to the owner's manual. Have the exhaust system inspected for leaks that could affect the engine performance and possibly allow deadly fumes to seep into the car.

Doors and Locks
Make sure that all working parts on your vehicle's door are properly lubricated. Frozen door locks can be overcome by using commercially available lock de-icers, never use hot water. Other methods to open frozen locks include aiming a hair dryer at the frozen lock or heating the key with a lighter or match.