NHTSA Reminds Consumers to Check Vehicles Prior to Winter Road Trips

December 23, 2011 Updated Dec 23, 2011 at 12:38 PM EDT

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NHTSA Reminds Consumers to Check Vehicles Prior to Winter Road Trips

December 23, 2011 Updated Dec 23, 2011 at 12:38 PM EDT

(NHTSA news release) With the winter driving season upon us, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this week issued a reminder to all drivers to check their vehicles and take necessary precautions before taking to the roads.

“It’s not uncommon for families to travel long distances or through inclement weather to celebrate the holidays or visit with loved ones,” said Administrator David L. Strickland, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "With this in mind, it’s important that drivers properly maintain their vehicles and always drive responsibly – never texting behind the wheel or driving drunk and always wearing a seat belt.”

To ensure safe travels this holiday season and through the New Year, NHTSA recommends that drivers take the following precautions:

Get your car serviced now to ensure your vehicle is in optimal condition.

* Visit your mechanic for a tune-up and other routine maintenance.

* Have your entire vehicle checked thoroughly for any leaks, bad hoses, or other needed parts, repairs, and replacements.

Check your battery.

* When the temperature drops, so does battery power. For gasoline-powered engines, also be aware that it takes more battery power to start your vehicle in cold weather than in warm. For electric vehicles, the driving range is reduced. Find out if your battery is up to the challenges of winter by:

* Having your mechanic check your battery for sufficient voltage;

* Having the charging system and belts inspected;

* If necessary, replacing the battery or making system repairs, including simple things like tightening the battery cable connections; and

* Making sure, for electric vehicles with gasoline backup systems, to keep fresh gasoline in the vehicle, to support the gasoline backup system.

Check your cooling system.

* When coolant freezes, it expands. This expansion can potentially damage your vehicle’s engine block beyond repair. Don’t let this happen to your vehicle this winter.

* Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle and that it’s designed to withstand the winter temperatures you might experience in your area.

* A 50/50 mix of coolant to water is sufficient for most regions of the country. See your vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations.

* Thoroughly check the cooling system for leaks or have your mechanic do it for you.

* If your system hasn’t been flushed (draining the system and replacing the coolant) for several years, have it done now. Over time, the rust inhibitors in antifreeze break down and become ineffective. Coolant also needs to be refreshed periodically to remove dirt and rust particles that can clog the cooling system and cause it to fail.