This morning was cold. In Hillsboro where I live, it was 35 degrees this morning when I woke up. Fall is here, and winter is not far behind. There are a couple of things you can do now that will make driving over the next few months safer and more comfortable.
Wash and wax your car- Your paint will survive the mess of winter much better if you give it a good coat of wax now. Be sure to raise the hood and get all the leaves and tree debris out of the vents. Clean the moss from around the trunk opening or around the rear hatch and windows. If you are not up to the task yourself, invest in a detail. Your car will look bitchin’ and you will love it. Vacuum the interior while you are at it. Those fries that have been hiding under the seat since the summer road trip need to go. Mice like warm places to stay in the winter, and a ready supply of food only makes your car more inviting.
Windshield Wipers- Let’s face it; they die. They sit in one place for a couple of hot months, drying out and developing a permanent curve that just makes them streak and chatter when you need them to be smooth and wipe the glass clean. Wipers are cheap, so why are people so loath to replace them? Put new wipers on now so the next downpour doesn’t leave you blindly following the tail lights of the car ahead of you, hoping that you can stop in time, not realizing that your exit was two miles back. Safety for less than $20… your life is worth $20, right?
While you are at it, refill your windshield washer reservoir with fluid. Don’t just use water, since that can freeze and ruin the tank and/or the pump. Check the spray nozzles to be sure they spray correctly; use a pin to pick out all of the wax you jammed in there in step one.
Bulbs- Make sure all of your marker lights, brake lights, turn signals, and headlights are working well. If one headlight burned out, the other can’t be far behind so replace them both. Upgrading to a brighter bulb can make driving at night much safer, but stay legal!
Change your oil- Why not? It is inexpensive insurance that you are ready to deal with winter, and your car’s manufacturer may recommend a lighter oil in winter than summer. While the mechanic is under there, they can check the condition of your brakes, tires, and shocks. Check your antifreeze, and if it isn’t up to the task of another winter, flush and refill your cooling system. It may be time for a new air filter, and a new cabin air filter if your car is so equipped. Clogged cabin air filters reduce the airflow through the vents, limiting the ability to clear fog off the windshield and keep the car warm.
The cold temperatures will cause your tire pressures to drop; think back to high school physics class about gasses, temperature, and expansion. It may even be enough to cause your tire pressure monitoring system to set off the dash light. Bring them up to the recommended tire pressure. There is a manufacturer’s tire guide sticker on your car, usually on the B-pillar or driver’s side door telling you what pressure to set them to.
A word about tires: Winter tires rule. If you spend any time at all in the snow, there is no substitute for a set of dedicated snow tires. Make sure to buy the ones with the “mountain symbol” on them indicating they are approved traction devices. With these tires, you won’t need to chain up when traction devices are required in the passes. They flat work. They also help in wet and cold conditions, too, since the tread compound is designed not to get hard in colder temperatures and the tread patterns evacuate water very effectively. You can’t violate the laws of physics and you still have to drive carefully, but like a good lawyer they sure stack the odds in your favor.
Next weekend you will be going to the pumpkin patch, then the holidays kick off and it will be winter before you know it. This is a great weekend to get ready for winter, so do it. Then reward yourself with a “leaf viewing trip” through the gorge, and a giant soft-serve cone at the drive-in in Cascade Locks- yum!
Be careful out among them,