Cheap, fast check-ups for your car - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Cheap, fast check-ups for your car

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

COVINGTON, KY (FOX19) - You definitely don't want to get stuck out in the cold, so there are three things you can do to prepare your car, starting with the tires, to the radiator, to the battery. And all of this diagnostic stuff, you can do at home, for under $5.

Whether you drive a Rolls Royce or something a little more rugged, don't get left hanging out in the cold.

You can get a radiator fluid tester for about $3.95. It's a real simple dropper with some colored-balls inside, and its what you need to test your radiator fluid levels, to keep your car safe.

Mechanic Don Baxter with Smith Tires, Brakes & Mufflers in Covington showed us how easy it is to check the radiator. He sticks the dropper into a cool radiator.

"And you just suck the coolant out, like that, you get an amount in there," Baxter said. "The more balls that we can float in there is going to tell me the strength of it."

If your antifreeze is old, you'll likely have trouble starting your car in the cold.

"Yeah, we're getting about a three it looks like, floating here now," he said looking at the dropper full of radiator fluid, with small colored balls now suspended in the solution. This means the car is only protected to about 5 degrees above zero.

"So this antifreeze here is not strong enough for when we get down into the single digits," Baxter said.

Ideally, all five colored balls inside the dropper should float, meaning your car would be protected to about 40 degrees below zero.

Baxter said only do this when the engine is cold.

"This car is not doing very well," he laughed. "This one here needs a flush."

Here's a second way to keep yourself safe. For one penny, you'll want to check the depth of your tire tread based on President Lincoln's head. If the tread is above Lincoln's hair, you will have problems steering in inclement weather. Best case scenario, you want your tread to almost reach Lincoln's nose, then you're good to go.

"If it's to Lincoln's head, it's not a whole lot of tread, especially if you get a lot of bad weather," Baxter said.

Tire air-pressure is another big factor in winter weather driving and is something you can find for free at some service stations.

"And how much is that?," we asked as Baxter checked the pressure of a tire. "This one here's 30 PSI. "Is that good?," we asked.

"Should be 35 PSI on this one," he said.

Baxter said fill your tires to whatever the manufacturer calls for and never overfill. He said the way tires are engineered these days, there is no need, as in the past, to deflate the tire by about 5 pounds. He said with the newer tires, not keeping them at maximum air pressure could actually make for hazardous steering in bad weather situations. Baxter said, in trucks, under-inflated tires could cause the back end to fish-tail.

"This here is a tire depth gauge," he said pointing to a professional tool mechanics use to check tire tread. "It tells you how much tread, how much life is left on your tire." This will give you a lot more accurate reading and give you a better idea of how much life may be left in your tires.

Third way to keep your self safe and your car's battery safe? You'll need some baking soda and a glass of water, it's totally easy, especially if the battery terminals are covered in white, corrosive material.

"You just get a cup of water," Baxter said. "Put about an ounce or two of baking soda in there, and stir it up, all you do is just pour it on your terminals and you will see it just foam-up and it'll take the corrosion right off."

Lots of auto part stores will take the battery out of your car for you and test it, to make sure it can still hold a charge. And if it does, most places will charge it up for free.

Also, don't leave your gas tank on fumes, it can cause the fuel pump inside the tank to work harder and overheat, then go out on you. On a bitter cold night, you definitely don't want to run out of gas.

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