Fall is typically not a season that triggers that sort of alarm. However, bear in mind that as the summer heat dissipates to make way for the fall season, it’s bound to get colder as the months pass. Indeed, in no time at all, it’s winter.
So, it’s important to get your car ready as soon as possible for the fall (and, eventually, the winter season).
Check or Replace the Battery
Extreme weather can be hard on the car battery. The colder the weather gets, the more strength it loses. As a result, it can get harder to start the car. Make sure that the battery is not too old; if it’s older than three or four years, it might be time to replace it with a new one. Also, check the battery’s connections. In some cases, there might be some corrosion on the posts or the connections are loose. You can use a brush to clean the posts if you see any corrosion, and you can disconnect and reconnect the cables to ensure that the connections are firm. If your battery is completely dead though, our friends at GuysGab have a great guide on how to jump start your car battery.
You might also want to visit AutoZone to test the battery for free to see if there's any damage caused by age or being dead too long. Ultimately, you want to make sure your battery is strong before you get into the bitter cold weather.
Check or Replace the Lights
As you get further into the fall season, the nights get longer and darker. Thus, it becomes more crucial than ever for all lights—both interior and exterior ones—to work properly, so that you can see as well as be seen. Thankfully, most bulbs for car lights are relatively inexpensive. Moreover, you can replace many of them without the aid of a mechanic, thus saving you a few bucks in labor costs.
Change the Windshield Wipers
It rains significantly more in the fall. Consequently, you use your windshield wipers more often during this season, thus wearing them out quicker. So, it’s recommended that you change your wipers for a fresh start. They can be obtained from any automotive aftermarket store, and they are rather inexpensive. Plus, wipers are easy to install, and a customer service representative can even have them installed for you if needed. Make sure, though, that you have the right size or sizes; some cars have a driver-side wiper that is longer than the front-passenger-side wiper. Also, if your car is a hatchback, station wagon, or SUV, check the rear windshield to confirm that there’s a third wiper there for replacement.
Give Your Car a Thorough Cleaning
It may sound obvious, but a clean car is going to perform better. This is true for gas mileage as well as braking performance and even noise. With a good heavy-duty cleaner, at least this part of the job will get done faster and without damage that might be caused by cleaners that use bleach and corrosive chemicals. It works particularly well for cleaning my wheels from brake dust and road grime as well as bug splatters on the front of the car.
This is also a perfect time to clean out the inside too since extra weight can impact winter driving performance as well as simply making your car smell better by finally throwing out those wrappers and empty cups!
Get Your Tires Ready for Winter Driving
With more rain comes the increased possibility of road surfaces being slippery. So, more than ever, your tires need to meet with the road. And to ensure the best traction possible, the tires should be properly inflated. However, if you can’t do that because the tires are worn, get them replaced as soon as possible.
Equally important for getting your car ready for winter is to check the tire tread too. Your tires may have worn down over the summer on a long road trip but if there's nothing left to grip onto the road, it could be a rude surprise on that first snowfall. Similarly, for those of you who swap out their tires seasonally, make sure to take this opportunity during the fall to swap in your winter tires. This is also a great opportunity to consider buying tires specifically for those winter months. Companies such as our friends over at Michelin have tires specifically designed for winter driving. Each winter tire is unique but the basic benefit is that the treads feature larger gaps that allow for increased traction on ice and snow.
Go for an Engine Tune-Up
This is arguably the most important car maintenance tip for the fall. The engine has to perform optimally as the weather begins to shift from one extreme to the other. Otherwise, you may be faced with one of the most expensive repairs you could possible make on a vehicle. At a dealership or auto care shop, the service technician can give you a full tune-up, meaning that the overall health of your engine will be evaluated. The oil will be changed, the engine’s components will be inspected, and new parts such as spark plugs and fuel filters will be installed if necessary. A tune-up is necessary for the engine on your vehicle to start easier, be more fuel-efficient, lower emissions, run smoother, and pack more of a punch.