Check Antifreeze to Avoid Winter Blues Car Care Council Offers Winter Preventative Maintenance Tips

Checking your vehicle’s antifreeze level during the cold winter months is a simple and inexpensive way to make sure your car won’t leave you stranded. Antifreeze is important because it is used to cool the car's engine, as well as protect it from freezing in cold weather. It also acts as the key agent in providing heat inside the car’s cabin.

“Inspecting and maintaining your vehicle’s cooling system takes just a few minutes of your time, but it is well worth it when you consider what could happen,” said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. “Cooling system failure is the leading cause of engine related breakdowns, which can cost thousands of dollars and leave you and your family stranded at the worst possible time.”

The cooling system protects against damage by keeping the engine operating within the correct temperature range. More than 27 percent of vehicles checked during National Car Care Month had low levels of coolant while 20 percent needed a coolant flush, which is needed to protect the system from rust, dirt and mineral deposits.

To check the level of antifreeze/coolant, you will need a few basic service tools and an antifreeze ball tester, which is available at your local auto parts store. Always make sure the engine and coolant system are cool before you begin. Opening a hot radiator or coolant reservoir/overflow tank can cause severe burns. If the antifreeze/coolant is low, add a 50/50 mix of approved antifreeze and distilled water. If you changed your antifreeze recently, but your level is low, use the antifreeze ball tester to make sure the anti-freeze-to-water ratio is correct.

This is also a good time to check for and replace any leaking, brittle, spongy or cracked hoses and to make sure that the radiator hose clamps are tight to prevent leaks at the connections.

The Car Care Council also recommends the following tasks be performed by a do-it-yourselfer or professional auto technician to help insure car is ready for winter driving:

Change oil every 3,000 miles; consider changing to a "winter weight" oil if you live in a cold climate. For less wear and tear on the engine, drivers in sub-zero driving temperatures should drop their oil weight from 10-W30 to 5-W30.
Check the battery for visible signs of corrosion. Before driving long distances, it is a good idea to have the battery life tested by a professional service technician.
Make certain the heater/defroster is working properly and keep the gas tank full to minimize the risk of gas line freezing.
Check tire tread depth and tire pressure; consider special tires if snow and ice are a problem in your area.
Check to see that lights work and headlights are properly aimed.
Replace wiper blades every six months; consider special snow blades if the weather dictates.

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. To obtain a free service interval schedule, visit