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How to Prepare Your Car for Safe Winter Driving

Car Care MonthYou're heading down the highway anxious to get home. Suddenly you hear cling clang, putter sputter. Your car is skipping beats and spitting liquid. Your adrenaline spews. Your only choice is to pull over on the dark freeway. Now what?

If you're a man, this is a major inconvenience. If you're a woman, this could be terrifying, perhaps even life-threatening. No matter who you are, you've just become a sitting duck. Whether you work on the problem or wait for help to arrive, your time on the side of the road now makes you susceptible to the dark side of humanity.

Can this be avoided? In most cases, yes, which is why GM Goodwrench has declared October Car Care Month, an awareness campaign created to focus attention on the importance of car care and maintenance, especially for those living in states that have drastic seasonal changes.

The mission is simple. When your vehicle is properly maintained it will last longer, run better and hold its value longer. But more importantly, it will keep you and your passengers safe and sane on the road. However, if you're one of those people who think it will never happen to you, let's put it in another perspective.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that neglected vehicle maintenance results in some 100,000 disabling injuries each year from roadside accidents to personal attacks. Additionally, 12.6 percent of vehicle crashes can be attributed to mechanical defects or worn out equipment. These debilitating set backs cost Americans $2 billion in lost wages, medical expenses and property damage, not to mention the mental and emotional anguish reaped on the victims and their families which can take months if not years from which to recover.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the leading cause of mechanical breakdown on our nation's highways is overheating, something so easily avoidable that it's mind boggling to think it happens at all.

The Car Care Council recently moved its Car Care Month to April in time for spring. GM Goodwrench believes both October and April are important to proper vehicle maintenance, which is why they're pushing for winter awareness. In many northern states, seasonal changes can have a devastating effect on a car's performance so preparing your ride for each season can make a difference between saving or losing money — or worst case scenario, saving or losing your life.

It's good practice to have your vehicle serviced by technicians who are experts with the brand. If you own a GM vehicle, reach out to one of the 7,000 GM Goodwrench service shops around the country. Their technicians have more than a million hours of training on GM vehicles. Think about it. Would you go to a dentist for a heart problem?

We understand it's tough to remember when to get check-ups for your car. Or sometimes it's just not in the budget. So here are a few tips to help you remember what to do and when to do it. First, if you're purchasing a new vehicle, it'll have an oil light indicator to remind you it's time to change your oil. Let this serve as your red flag to bring the vehicle into Mr. Goodwrench for a full check up.

If you own an older GM model, Goodwrench will remind you each October with their Car Care Month campaign and the Car Care Council will remind you in April with theirs. Since both months are the beginning of seasonal changes, it's wise to get check ups both times. If all else fails, let Halloween serve as your October reminder, a ghoulish time of year, which could turn your life into a nightmare if you breakdown on some deserted roadside.

If budget is an issue, consider this. Isn't $100 in preventative car care far more manageable than $3,000 in repairs, replacements, tow trucks, or loss of life? Car ownership is not just about monthly car payments and insurance. Costs such as gas, maintenance, tires and fluids should be included in your annual auto budget.

Develop a relationship with your Goodwrench technician. Your car is your baby. Your technician is its doctor. Quite often technicians will give you do-it-yourself tips for between visits, which will save you time and money. Here are a few of things that they'll check for you.

Batteries: A weak battery can strand you at what always seems like the worst time and place. Trained technicians will test your battery to ensure it has thousands of starts left in it.

Tires: The wrong air pressure can compromise your vehicle's ride and handling. So can a tire's tread. If your tires are squealing when you turn corners, then have them properly inspected. The Car Care Council found 54 percent of vehicles had improperly inflated tires.

Brakes: An expert inspection is necessary to ensure your brakes are functioning properly. It doesn't matter if you have great tires and a working battery — if you can't stop the car you're in big trouble. Squealing, chattering and movement in the pedal are all signs that brakes need to be inspected immediately.

Oil: Changing oil and filters at recommended intervals minimizes engine wear and reduces the possibilities of internal damage. If your engine seizes up from low or no oil you're looking at engine replacement, if not total car replacement. Hmmm, let's see; oil change $50; engine replacement $5,000. What should I do?

Fluid Levels: Low or high fluid levels — including coolant, power steering, transmission and brake fluids, even washer solvent — can affect vehicle performance and safety. Low fluid levels can wreak havoc on your car that will in turn wreak havoc on your budget.

Belts & Hoses: A broken belt or ruptured hose can result in costly engine damage and travel delays. Technicians are trained and have the proper tools to find cracks and leaks which aren't always visible to the layman eye.

Headlights: Properly aimed headlamps help you see and be seen. They won't do you much good if they're pointing at the moon. Today's headlights are very high-tech and shouldn't be touched with human hands because skin oils will shorten their lives. Let a trained technician keep you out of the dark in more ways than one.

Find a Mr. Goodwrench tech near you: