Drivers in New York and New Jersey are no strangers to winter roads. Unfortunately, not everyone checks their cars at the start of the season to make sure they are winter ready. Doing a winter car care checkup is easier than you think, although there’s nothing wrong with asking a professional or mechanically-inclined friend for help.
Air Filter. As it gets colder, you’re going to be cranking the heat in the car so you want to make sure the air filter is clean. A little discoloration and dirt is normal for air filters. However, if there is so much dirt and dust in the filter that you can barely see the pleats, it is time for a change. You should also look for signs of oil contamination, make sure bits of the filter aren’t falling off, and ensure the rubber seal isn’t deformed or cracked.
Battery. If you haven’t already, have your mechanic check the battery and charging system. A fully charged battery can be the difference between getting to work on time and being stuck in your driveway or out in the cold someplace. You should also make sure the battery terminals and cable ends are not loose or corroded.
Belts and hoses. Frayed or cracked belts should be replaced. Check the underside of drive belts for evidence of wear. All belts should be replaced every 60,000 miles even if they appear fine. Leaking or loose hoses also require repair. To check them, give each hose a squeeze; if it feels brittle or too spongy, it needs to be replaced.
Brakes. In inclement weather, your brakes play an even bigger role in driver and passenger safety. Listen for unusual noises when you stop. The occasional squeak when brakes are wet is normal, but consistent noise suggests that your brake pads are worn out. Also, make sure you are able to stop quickly and smoothly in normal road conditions. If your stopping distance is a little too far on clear roads, it will be even worse on snow or ice.
Fluid Levels. Check all fluids to make sure they are full at the start of the winter. This includes coolant, windshield washer, transmission, brake and power steering fluids. Make sure the washer fluid you are using has antifreeze properties so it will function in temperatures below 32 degrees F.
Gas. Keep your gas tank as full as possible—more than halfway is ideal. In extreme cases, it’s not unheard of for people to be trapped on the road in their cars for hours; if you are trapped and you run out of gas, you have also run out of heat. Also, traveling can sometimes take longer than anticipated because of road conditions or detours.
Lights. Make sure your turn signals, headlights, tail lamps, fog lamps and other lights are working properly. If a bulb is burned out, replace it right away. Most car bulbs have a lifespan of 450 to 1,000 hours, although calculating how much life is left can be difficult. In addition to the prospect of getting a ticket if one of your lights is out (see below), it can be very dangerous, especially at night.
Undercarriage. The undercarriage is one of the last things most drivers think to check—until they hear scraping or other strange noises. For cars that sit low to the ground, when the snow gets thick it can make your exhaust system susceptible to damage. Visually inspect your muffler and exhaust to make sure it is secure and free of any debris. Be sure to check for leaks or drips as well.
Tires Wear and Pressure. When temperatures dip below 44 degrees F, the rubber in your tires becomes stiff and brittle. Combined with the onslaught of salt and sand, the winter can be tough on regular or even all-season tires. Check your tire for signs of wear each month throughout the winter. In addition, be aware that tires typically lose pressure in the winter. Expect a loss of 1 PSI for every 10 degrees F.
Wiper Blades. Check the condition of your wipers by spraying the windshield with wiper fluid and giving them and few swipes. If you see streaks or spots on your windshield, it may be time to get a new pair of wiper blades.
Performing a winter car care checkup can do more than keep you safe this winter. It could also save you from getting a traffic ticket. For example, tires that are dangerously worn could result in a ticket for VTL 375-35(c) unsafe tires. Likewise, a missing or burnt out headlamp or taillight is a violation of VTL 375-2(a)I (no/inadequate lights) and VTL 375-2(a)3 (no/insufficient tail lamps) respectively. A conviction for any of these violations can cost up $150 plus an NYS surcharge of $58 to $63. However, no points are assigned to these tickets.
While those tickets may not require the aid of an attorney, you should hire a lawyer if you or a loved one are ticketed for more serious traffic violations, such a texting while driving, speeding, seatbelt violations, or drunk driving. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm have the experience to help drivers in New York and New Jersey avoid the fines, points, and insurance increases that can come with a conviction. Email or call 888-203-2619 for a free consultation about your case.