Q: It’s been a while since my car has been serviced, and we’re planning to go up to Tahoe for some skiing. One of my friends told me that I should have my car checked out before we go. Do you think I should do it now, or can I wait until we get back?
A: It’s important to have your car serviced before you go. There will be a change in climate from where you are driving now (relatively warmer and dryer) to where you will be skiing (colder and wetter). This change in climate will have an effect on a number of vehicle system components. Important items to have checked are:
1. Tires for proper inflation and tread depth. These both have a large effect on traction and control.
2. Battery and starting/charging systems. As the temperature outside lowers, the vehicle battery loses its ability to provide the current needed to get the starter to turn the engine. What starts the vehicle when it’s warm, may not when it gets cold.
3. Window wiper blades. For safety reasons, make sure that the blades are in good condition to give you the best visibility.
4. Exterior lights. Brake lights, tail lights, etc., if not working, can increase the chances for an accident. There seems to be more vehicles than usual driving with inoperable brake lights. When was the last time yours were checked?
5. Finally, the heater and defrosters must be in working order to ensure the windows are kept clear on the inside.
Also, keep in mind that the ice and snow will require all of your driving expertise to stay on the road and a safe distance from the vehicles around you. As I recommend for someone new to driving, I highly recommend a defensive driving course, such as the Highway Survival course at Jim Russell Racing School (Sears Point Raceway, now known as Infineon), in Sonoma (http://www.jimrussellusa.com/driving%20courses/drivingcourses.php) Course instruction includes accident avoidance, skid control, high-speed exercises (yes, 65-70 mph is high speed!), etc.
Warren McCord, Owner/ASE Certified Master Technician
Dean’s Automotive, Inc.