Prepare your vehicle for winter |

Prepare your vehicle for winter

The time for drivers to prepare for winter is before it starts snowing, according to the Automobile Association of America.

“Most drivers are familiar with two important cooling systems in their vehicles,” says Lisa Foster, AAA spokesperson, ‘the air conditioning and the engine cooling system composed of water pump, radiator and liquid coolant. But many are not aware of the important role (motor) oil plays in keeping their vehicle cool.”

Low oil levels can mean that whatever oil there is has to work harder to remove heat from the engine. Keeping the oil level at the “full” mark makes sure that the engine will operate at its optimum level.

Don’t ignore the water cooling system. Check the overflow bottle. f you’re not sure that the coolant is a safe mixture of antifreeze and water, check it with a tool from an auto store.

Then test the battery, examine the tire treads, and examine the belts and hoses.

“After that, it falls back to basic maintenance,” said Dale Garcia, store manager at NAPA Auto Parts in South Lake Tahoe on Tallac Avenue. He said wipers and windshield fluid are the top sellers now.

Studded snow tires, on average, cost about $15 to $20 more than regular snow tires.

“Some people start getting ready as early as late September because it can snow anytime,” said Bob Elliot, store manager at Ken’s Tire Center. “Generally, people who drive at night like studded tires because it’s icy. Or people who have to drive up big hills.”

October is Auto Care Month, and AAA members can have a free safety check at AAA-approved auto repair facilities with an appointment. For location of facilities, call (800) 645-4288.

Safe driving tips from AAA include:

n Turn on the headlights in the late afternoon before the sun begins to set. Always use low-beam headlights in fog, rain or snow.

n Clear ice and snow from the windshield and windows before starting to drive. Don’t presume the heater will clear the windows before you run into trouble.

n Keep your speed within the limits of road conditions.

n Avoid sudden stops and hard turns. Look ahead, and if you see a red light, slow down. Don’t rush up to it and slam on the brakes.

n Use the right technique for braking. If the car has ABS brakes, just apply a slow, steady pressure. For cars without anti-lock brakes, use firm pressure just up to wheel lock, then ease off on the brake before reapplying pressure.

n Anticipate danger. Slow down on snow-covered or icy roads, and keep a safe distance behind the car ahead of you.