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5 Reasons Your Car Breaks Down in Autumn and How to Avoid Them

Fall is here and winter is on the way. It is more than just a time to pull out your winter boots and parkas. It is also a time to get your vehicle prepared for the colder weather.

Here at Belfast Mechanical, we are big believers in preventative maintenance. A few dollars spent now can mean avoiding some nasty problems with your vehicle this winter. Here are a few things you should pay attention to to keep your vehicle in good working order.

1. Leaves

They may be beautiful on the tree, but falling autumn leaves can be a nuisance to vehicle owners.

The sap, tannic acid and pollen from leaves can stain your vehicle’s paint job. Fallen leaves can also get caught in the air intakes and cowls of your vehicle, restricting airflow under the hood. This, in turn, causes defrosting of the windshield to take far longer than necessary. Fuel economy is also impacted.

The solution: Avoid parking under trees whenever possible. Routinely check for leaves under your front bumper and remove leaves from your hood and wiper cowl area as needed.

2. Weak Batteries

As we head toward the winter months, the battery in your vehicle needs to be in tip-top shape.

A fully charged battery is what gets your vehicle running in the colder temperatures that are fast approaching. Ensuring you battery is in good working order can save your vehicle from idling for long periods of time in freezing temperatures.

The solution: Make sure your battery is in good working order by having it checked by a skilled auto mechanic. This service should be included in seasonal inspections offered at any garage, but be sure to ask for a full report to ensure it has been taken care of.

If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your car battery, that is a sure sign it is time to do so. Or, if you notice corrosion on the battery terminals, loose connections, or that the battery fluid is low, make an appointment at your garage of choice to have your battery replaced as soon as possible.

3. Fluids

Cold weather and precipitation put extra strain on your vehicle.

Look at how much windshield washer fluid you go through in the fall and winter, for instance. Or, if you’ve been topping up your radiator’s coolant levels with water throughout the summer, that means there is not enough antifreeze present to prevent freezing.

The solution: Ensuring your vehicles fluids are topped up is the smart choice to make this fall. Brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, engine oil, windshield washer fluid, and coolant levels should all be checked by a professional mechanic. This could be as easy as booking a fall maintenance appointment, which takes care of fluids and more.

Don't put off tending to your vehicle’s fluid levels until that first frosty morning, or the damage could already be done.

4. Condensation

Fall in Ontario can be wet and cold. It is the time of year when rain and condensation can get into your vehicle’s electrical system, causing your vehicle's lights, power windows, and sound system to short out. And those are just three of the less severe problems that can occur when your electrical system gets wet.

Condensation on your vehicle’s electrical system comes from wet roads, heavy dew and frost. If you can see water droplets on your vehicle's wires or connectors, then a moisture-related electrical problem is a virtual guarantee.

The solution: A good auto mechanic will pack the connectors of your vehicle with dielectric grease to help prevent moisture and corrosion.

If the problem stems from a window being left open in the rain or an over zealous interior washing, however, use a can of compressed air to push as much moisture as possible out of the affected area.

If moisture is a constant problem, however, something more serious is at play. Take your vehicle to a licensed mechanic to investigate the cause.

5. Squirrels, Chipmunks and Rodents

As the temperature drops these furry little animals begin looking for a warm place to call home — and that could be in your vehicle.

The biodegradable plastics incorporating plant-based materials used by some auto manufacturers can make your vehicle an appealing place take up residence. Rats especially enjoy sharpening their teeth on plastic wire harnesses and rubber hoses.

The solution: Make room in your garage so you can park inside. If that is not possible, pick up some rodent deterrent products — many on the market are quite effective. If you suspect a critter has found its way into your vehicle's ventilation or intake systems, make an appointment for an inspection immediately — mice and other small animals can cause major damage that impacts the ability of your vehicle to run as it should.

Extra Vehicle Maintenance Tips for Fall & Winter

  • Windshield wipers – Always pry them free from an icy windshield BEFORE turning them on. Replace them at the first sign of wear.

  • Tire pressure – Make sure your vehicle's tires are evenly inflated to the manufacturer's specifications.

  • Heater and defrosters – Ensure both systems are in good working order to avoid freezing this winter.

  • Roadside emergency rations – Accident rates spike in the winter. Ensure you are prepared with an emergency kit that includes tools, water, blankets and/or spare winter clothing and a flashlight.

  • Headlights – Ensure your vehicle's lights are bright, enabling you to see in the worst of winter conditions.

  • Brakes – Have a brake inspection before winter hits. You can't afford for them not to work their best on icy roads.

If you have any questions or concerns about your car’s maintenance and service requirements this fall, come see us at Belfast Mechanical Services in Trenton. Our friendly experts are always here to help. Give us a call at 613-392-9500 to get your car ready for winter.

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