Listen to what your car is telling you

— By DAVID A. WILSON

Democrat Staff

According to Drew Shelton of O'Reilly Automotive, people should pay attention to their cars. "Your car will let you know if there is a problem," he said. "Listen to what your car is telling you."

With winter drawing near, as shown by cooler temperatures, it is even more important to listen to the car or truck.

There is usually an early indication of a future problem. Learn what the car feels like to drive. If it changes, maybe it would be a good idea to check it out. It may be slower starting, a harder push on the brake or the accelerator to make it do the same thing. Possibly the steering wheel is a little harder to turn to the right or left.

The car may sound different, but if the radio is always loud, it might not be heard.

"Sometimes turn the radio off and listen to the car for awhile," Shelton said.

Judging by some of the extreme weather conditions experienced in the area in the last several years, it is a good idea to have cars and trucks checked out and winterized.

According to Service Manager Luke Friedrich at Sakelaris Ford, car owners usually remember oil and oil changes. What they might not think about is transmission fluid, brake fluid condition and levels and coolant.

As long as the transmission works, people just use it. Few think much about it until they notice a problem. A lot of the time, the problems could be avoided if the transmission was checked twice a year, as a part of the summerizing and winterizing processes, and changed as often as the owners manual recommends.

Brakes are the same way. Drivers often use the brakes without ever checking the fluid levels or condition. Then, when there is a problem, it is a surprise. And it really shouldn't be.

Coolant is a little different. Friedrich commented that once the engine coolant has a little age on it, it may not be doing its job well even though it still may test out properly.

Gene Leeper, Leeper Auto Repair, said that one of the important parts of all auto maintenance is to check the owner's manual. Just about all anyone would need to know about their car or truck can be found in the owners manual, including winterizing.

One question which Leeper is frequently asked is how to reset the engine oil change light. Although he can look it up on a computer, it can be found in the owner's manual.

To winterize a vehicle, just about everything should be checked — tire condition and pressure, battery, battery cables and connections, drive belts, lights, wipers, fuel and air filters and more.

Batteries are another thing that should be checked. The primary driver usually pays little attention to the battery. It may work for five to seven years, then it fails, often on a cold morning. There is an additional surprise when the buyer discovers new batteries are no longer $50, but in the neighborhood of $100.

Even the air conditioner should be checked before winter, since in many vehicles, the air conditioner runs when the window defroster runs. Running an air conditioner low on refrigerant can cause damage.

The weather is already cooling down for the winter season. Don't wait until the first snowstorm to decide the car or truck should have been winterized a few weeks before. At least make sure the car has a window scraper.

Remember, if the car is not starting well in the summer, it isn't going to start any better in the winter.

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