The severe weather and sub-freezing temperatures that have made their home in Spokane for the past few weeks serve as a reminder of the harsh elements that accompany the winter months here. Like a body that should be warmed up and maintained properly to produce maximum performance, cars also have their little kinks and knots that need working out to ensure that we drivers get the most out of them.

Proper winter maintenance for your vehicle could mean the difference between a worry-free winter driving season and a colossal headache. Maintenance covers a broad spectrum of topics other than the obvious. But it is helpful to make sure your bases are covered. Batteries are very popular for being problematic. As the source of electricity for the car, the battery needs to be in good shape to ensure a good start each time. Winter maintenance on the battery is the same as the rest of the year. Make sure the terminals are clean and the cables are free of corrosion. Even the smallest encroachment on the connection can cause a vehicle not to start.

Another seemingly small task that can pay big dividends is staying current on the conditions of your belts and hoses. Fluctuation in temperature can take its toll on these rubber components, and staying up to date on their condition could be the difference between having a good morning and a hellish one. A few years back, I could have avoided a major power-steering fluid crisis if only I had maintained my hoses.

While I have never been a fan of tire chains, this winter I have seen their value and plan on using them as road conditions worsen. It is important to note a few key points when using chains. The most important element is a proper fit. A loose set of chains is going to hinder your travel rather than help it. When applying chains, make sure it is done in a safe place well off the road. Hand-tighten the chains and travel about a quarter of a mile to check for slipping or a loose fit. Once the chains have been properly adjusted, don't exceed 30 mph, as chains are not designed for high rates of speed.

A little time and money applied toward the winterizing of a vehicle is certainly worth the investment. And all of these different types of maintenance can be taken care of at a shop. New Concepts Goodyear in the Spokane Valley offers a winterizing special that will bring your car up to winter driving standards.

"The cooling system is very important," says Cory Smith, manager of the shop. "You also want to keep an eye out for leaks or bad hoses that can break at a bad time."

Like a lot of shops, New Concepts has a comprehensive winterization package that includes a point-by-point summary of what elements need what particular service. They take care of the coolant, change the oil, check the radiator, add a winter windshield wiper mix that won't freeze and check out pretty much everything else for $90.

"Neglected maintenance is usually the source of most breakdowns in the winter," says Smith.

Publication date: 1/20/04

Summer Parkways @ South Hill

Through June 20
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