Tips to keep cold weather from conquering car

The brutal cold December weather can exacerbate any problems your car has — there are simple ways to avoid breakdowns. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

WASHINGTON — Brutally cold and windy weather has many commuters holding their breath as they try to start their cars, but there are simple steps that can minimize the risk of car problems.

Charlie Gischlar, spokesman with the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, said that routine maintenance can be the difference between a quick start and a frozen struggle with your car. Gischlar said some simple observations can prevent on-road breakdowns.

“Check out your radiator hose, first of all — the cooling systems are key,” said Gischlar. “If your car is starting to get up in age, see if they’re spongy or have any leaks — if there are, spend a couple dollars, get them replaced.”

Also important is the serpentine belt, which controls most systems in the car.

“If it’s frayed, I wouldn’t take a chance with that,” said Gischlar.

Gischlar also said to make sure all reservoirs — including windshield wiper fluid, antifreeze, break fluid, and oil — are filled to the manufacturer’s specifications, and that tires have tread and are properly inflated.

“When you get these cold temperatures, that can take something that normally wouldn’t be that big of a deal, and turn it into a real problem, and leave you out in the cold,” said Gischlar.

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