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posted: 11/16/2013 12:10 AM

Don't let winter weather leave you stranded

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Q. What do I need to consider when getting my car ready for winter? Back in the day I would just bring it in and say please winterize my car. I sense things have changed a little.

A. You are right, things have changed quite a bit but some things are still relevant. Back in the day cars were less forgiving when it came to maintenance. A worn out set of spark plugs may have caused your car not to start on a cold morning, whereas today you might get away with that longer -- that is, until you damage a coil or a module.

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At a minimum, you still want to make sure you are current on all the maintenance recommended by the manufacturer. Even though carmakers use longer-life fluids, they still need to be changed from time to time. Heading into winter is a good time to make sure they are clean and fresh.

The antifreeze, for instance, in most cases is a long-life fluid and doesn't need to be changed every year like many of us remember. However, over time, antifreeze can get dirty and acidic and start to be detrimental to engine components in the cooling system. Certainly it should be tested for this, but also to make sure it will protect the engine against freezing. If water was added during the summer for any reason, the antifreeze could be diluted to the point that it may no longer be strong enough.

Another obvious area to pay attention to are the tires. Good tread is critical to safe driving on snow and ice. The difference in traction and stopping power can be huge between a worn tire and a new one. It could even mean the difference between a nonevent and a body-shop visit.

Make sure all your lights are working properly and if the plastic headlight lenses are degraded and foggy it would be a good idea to have them refinished to get more light through. It is amazing how much better you will see at night after having this service done.

How about a new set of wiper blades?

It never fails; I forget how bad my blades are until the next time I need them. They say wiper blades should be replaced twice a year, but I recommend at least once a year before winter as a good rule of thumb.

Last but not least, you will want to have the battery tested. New technology allows us to get a very accurate picture of the condition of the battery and we can predict its potential for failure before it fails. If it's marginal, it will be a good idea to replace it before it leaves you stranded.

There are many other areas that would probably be inspected during a winterization, but these are a few highlights.

• Douglas Automotive is at 417 W. Main St., Barrington, (847) 381-0454, and 123 Virginia Road, Crystal Lake, (815) 356-0440. For information, visit douglasautomotive.com. Send questions to underthehood@dailyherald.com.

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