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Getting your car ready for winter.

AS the winter season approaches, many people are contemplating interstate or intrastate road trips to vacation spots or family reunions. But unforeseen car problems can dampen the holiday cheer and drain the wallet.

To better prepare for any contingency on the road this winter, vital steps must be taken to ensure proper functioning of your car and thus the safety of its passengers.

The most crucial step is to get your car tuned up for winter before bad weather strikes. "The main thing is to do everything in your power to prevent a possible breakdown within a car owner's own capabilities," says George Giek, an AAA Road Management official. "People need to learn to use a lot of common sense when they set out on a drive."

The following suggestions may help prevent a dangerous and costly winter breakdown.

* Plan ahead and keep abreast of weather and road conditions. Your TV and daily newspaper provide extensive information about both.

* Keep your automobile manual in your car. Information on proper car care are included.

* Check your tires for proper inflation, condition and the right type. Tires not only affect your traction but they also play a crucial role in stopping and steering your car. Use all-season radial or snow tires during icy and snowy weather, and visually check for worn treads and bald spots.

* Check your antifreeze. Maintain a 50/50 antifreeze and water ratio. If you don't have the right amount and proper quality of fluids under the hood, you may reduce the solution's effectiveness in cold weather.

* Listen to your car. If the engine hesitates or is hard to start, if the steering wheel shakes, the brake pedal jumps, the fan belt squeals or you hear unusual noises, you don't want to take a chance driving, especially in winter. If any of these symptoms are present, take your car to a reputable car service center.

* Have a mechanic check the condition of your spark plugs and the car's ignition system. Spark plugs don't need to be changed as frequently as they used to because of high-energy ignition and unleaded fuel.

* Carefully look for signs such as hardening or leaks indicating faulty hoses that need immediate replacement.

* Make sure the radiator is clean. It is important that the water circulates uninterrupted.

* Check the heater. Carefully inspect for leaks in the heater valve.

* Make sure the defroster is in good working condition. If your windshield freezes, your visibility will impaired in cold weather.

* Check headlights and taillights for alignment and brightness. Make sure brake and hazard lights work properly.

* Check your windshield wipers. Make sure the windshield wiper bracket is tight and the shaft isn't worn down. Replace worn windshield wipers and carry a full container of wiper fluid.

* Keep a survival kit in the trunk of your car. Such a kit should include blankets, lights, fluids to drink, provisions, lug wrenches, a shovel, an empty gasoline can, traction mats, flares and sunblocker for the windshield with "Help!" spelled out on one side so it can be used to flag down passing motorists in case of an emergency.

* Buy a cellular telephone for security. Cellular telephone prices have dropped sharply and are more affordable now. A telephone is an invaluable aid during a winter breakdown.

COPYRIGHT 1993 Johnson Publishing Co.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Ebony
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Words:544
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