Get Ready For Summer

Part of parenting is dispensing driving advice. For example, in icy weather young drivers may be told, "Take it slow. Don't drive any faster than the speed at which you're willing to hit a brick wall." Thanks Mom. Thanks Dad. Driving slowly and cautiously is good advice, but RPM would like to remind motorists of other cold weather tips.

The first and most important is to be proactive. That means making sure you're car is mechanically sound before the temperature dips and the streets get icy.

RPM recommends the following tasks be performed by a professional auto technician:

Engine and cooling system
First, if you're a Do-It-Yourselfer, get under the hood. Otherwise, visit your friendly automotive technician. Winter only magnifies existing problems like pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling, so make certain the engine is in peak condition. Check the cooling system, too. Coolant should be flushed and refilled every 2 years.

Oil change
Check the owner's manual to see if your driving habits are considered to be "severe service." This type of driving requires more frequent oil changes. Have the oil changed accordingly, usually every 3-5,000 miles. For less wear and tear on the engine, drivers in cold climates (sub-zero driving temperatures) should drop their oil weight from 10w-30 to 5w-30.

Four other musts
The battery and exhaust system are other "must check" items. These should be examined using professional equipment. Make certain the heater/defroster are working properly and keep the gas tank full. In addition to staying ready for the road, a full fuel tank decreases the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.

Exterior concerns
Now for the outside of the vehicle: tires, lighting and wipers. Both tire tread and tire pressure should be checked weekly. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. Lights should be inspected regularly. Check to see that bulbs are illuminated, and headlights are properly aimed. Finally, replace wiper blades every six months. Consider special snow blades if the weather dictates.

Even the most meticulously maintained vehicle can develop problems on the road, especially during inclement weather. That's when it pays to be prepared for an emergency. Tapping the Trunk - Use that big space for something more than a spare tire (which, incidentally should be properly inflated, just in case). Pack items that would be needed if you got stranded for a several hours. A cell phone (with a car charger) is a good start. Also include the following: ice scraper, windshield de-icer, flashlight, whisk broom, blanket, extra clothes, candle/matches, bottled water, snacks, needed medication.