Winter car maintenance

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By Greg Summers

Your hard-working vehicle needs attention during cold weather, too. Below-freezing temperatures can especially take a toil on rubber and plastic parts, causing them to fail and break. Here are some basic maintenance tips to keep your car running in tip-top shape after last week’s snowstorm:
– Make sure the engine is running strong – Keep the engine properly tuned. A vehicle with a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can decrease gas mileage by as much as 40 percent. A single misfiring spark plug can cut fuel economy by up to 4 percent.
– Change the engine oil – Use the recommended grade of motor oil for your vehicle. Change it according to the vehicle owner’s manual, which usually recommends every three months or 3,000 miles. Prolonged driving without an oil change may severely damage the engine.
– Properly maintain the tires – Check inflation pressure once a month when you fill up for gas. Also, make sure the tires are properly balanced. Don’t forget to rotate tires according to the maintenance schedule and have the steering alignment checked at least once a year.
– Use good driving habits – Accelerating quickly and stopping abruptly can prematurely wear a vehicle engine, transmission, tires and brakes. Aggressive driving also wastes gas.
– Protect it from the elements – Keep the exterior washed and waxed to preserve the paint finish and protect your vehicle from the environment. Drivers should wash their cars after the weather clears to clean off brine or salt. Salt, water, sand and even road de-icing chemicals can cause rust or other vehicle damage.
– Regularly check all vehicle fluid levels – This includes transmission, oil, power steering, windshield washer and coolant.