Chicago — Get ready. Get set. Go! That's the way every motorist wants to start his car in the winter. Whether you live in the Sunbelt or where the snow flies, lower winter temperatures mean a car should be ready for top performance at all times.
Now is the time to get the car in shape.
To start out, check the car's cooling system, tires, windshield wiper blades, and other systems that need to be in tiptop condition as the temperature drops.
Getting a car ready for winter anywhere is much like preparing a home for the change of seasons. It means good housekeeping and checking to be sure that all systems are ''go.''
Richard Cursi of Chrysler Corporation recommends that the windshield-wiper blades be thoroughly examined. ''Make sure they're wiping well or replace them, '' he urges.
Next, have the car tuned in compliance with the manufacturer's recommendations in the owner's manual.
Check out the battery, he adds, pointing to the importance of assuring that it's ready for the increased draw which comes from cold-weather starts. A battery is far less effective at 20 degrees F. than at 80.
''I'd also check the drive belts - the alternator and fan belts, particularly - to be sure they're not worn and that they're tight,'' he urges. ''If loose, they should be adjusted.''
Mr. Cursi stresses the importance of assuring that the cooling system in a car is in top performing order. Engines in today's cars heat to as much as 4,500 degrees F., he reports. While the antifreeze may still be present, the additives in it may have diminished to the point where they aren't doing the cooling work they are required to perform.
''Be sure that you have a 50/50 mix,'' he recommends.
Engine hoses should be flexible and in good shape, not brittle from long wear. If they are worn, they cannot do their job and may break on the road, thus resulting in a costly road-service call.
Even if you live in the Sunbelt, tires should be carefully examined for damage and wear.
''Be sure the tires do not have uneven wear and that there is enough tread left for safe stopping when required,'' asserts Mr. Cursi. Also, be sure to keep the tires inflated to the recommended pressure at all times. Tires should be checked when cold with a quality air-pressure gauge.
The Chrysler service representative reminds motorists that the snow-removal systems of many Southern cities are not equal to those in the North.
''Be sure the tires have no cupping,'' advises the Chrysler representative.
Check the car's heating and defrosting system. You'll need them as the temperature falls.
When it comes to preparing the outside of a car for harsh winter conditions, Jim Reynolds of Du Pont says a thorough washing with a detergent or car-cleaning compound is the way to start.
''Get rid of the grime on the car before you wax it,'' he advises.
Then apply a high-quality, all-purpose car polish and cleaner.
''Use a compound which will both clean and polish the car,'' he recommends. A body polish can be used on the chrome and other nonpainted surfaces as well. ''Use special compounds for the vinyl trim so it'll be protected for the winter weather,'' he adds.
''It's important for those in the North to wash their car as often as possible during the winter so as to remove any road salt on the surface. The wheel wells, drain holes, and rocker panels beneath the doors should be cleaned. Use a stick to clean the drain holes.''
To check if the wax coating is holding up, observe the way the water runs off the car. If the water sheets, there's no wax protection and the car should be washed and waxed as soon as there's a thaw, or one should have it done professionally inside. But if the water beads, the driver knows that the wax coat is holding up.
What kind of wax should one look for?
Mr. Reynolds recommends buying a wax that is nationally distributed rather than a local ''sudden bargain.'' The product should both clean and wax and include silicones and wax hydrocarbons so as to dissolve any oily deposits on the car.
Put your car in shape for the winter. Not only will it retain its highest value, but the engine will start when you want it to start.
It's far cheaper in the long run.