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Cathy Janek: Not too late to winterize your vehicle

Ram Kubal, of Naperville, cleans off his car on Main St. in Naperville during Monday's snow storm. (Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media)
Cathy Janek, Naperville Sun Transportation columnist.

Many cars can talk to us, tell us where to go, correct us if we make a navigational error, and enlighten us on their upcoming maintenance requirements. But if our cars could really talk and tell us how they feel, they might steal a phrase from Avicii’s hit song, “Wake me up when it’s all over.”

Furthermore, they would probably let us know that their windows have been frozen shut, they are especially dirty and just don’t feel like themselves.

If you didn’t prepare your car for this harsh winter, don’t despair: It’s not too late. While local auto repair shops are doing a bustling business combating weather-related vehicle issues, car owners still can do some preparations on their own.

If the temperature again plummets and car windows are frozen shut, Becker Service Center’s Mark Harris recommends that owners do not attempt to open windows.

Especially if your vehicle has been sitting out in the cold, Harris said, “Car windows are made with plastic and rubber, and in extreme temperatures, something could break if you attempt to open the window.”

Instead, he said opening the vehicle door is a better alternative.

Washing your vehicle in extreme temperatures also could lead to doors freezing shut. Harris suggested that, during extremely cold temperatures, vehicles should be washed and dried inside before being taken outside to face the winter elements.

When the temperature is above freezing, he added, “It’s a good idea to at least rinse your car off from all the salt and slush from vehicles, including the wheels and underneath the vehicle.”

It’s not good in the long run to leave salt on the vehicle, he added. “It will shorten the life of the components on the vehicle.”

Most car batteries today last between four and six years, Harris said. “The way batteries are made today, they don’t slowly wear out like they used to,” he added. “Today’s batteries will work one minute and not work the next — unless there is an issue with the battery shorting out.”

Anti-freeze is the most important to check, he said.

“Make sure that anti-freeze is fresh and the proper amount is in their vehicle,” Harris said.

Beth Moser with AAA Chicago recommends having brakes checked to ensure they work properly. In addition, she recommended checking to make sure tires are properly inflated and worn windshield wipers are replaced.

In addition, gas tanks should be kept at least half full at all times to minimize condensation buildup that can lead to gas line freeze-up.

Moser also recommends motorists keep a winter emergency kit that includes the following items:

A cell phone and charger

Flares, warning triangles or reflectors

Tow rope and bungee cord

Flashlight with extra batteries

Drinking water and preserved food

Ice scraper, snow brush and snow shovel

Cat litter or sand for traction

Heavy gloves, blanket or sleeping bag

Jumper cables

First-aid kit

The last few weeks of winter weather has given us an intensive refresher course on driving and maintaining our vehicles throughout winter.

We are only slightly past January’s halfway point, and while we have enjoyed a slight thaw and some sunny days, undoubtedly more winter weather will be heading our way.

It might be tempting to throw blankets over our heads and hibernate until spring. It also might be a good time to head to the garage and have that discussion with our cars and let them know — winter is almost over. Well, in a couple months anyway.

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