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It's Time for a Fall Auto Checkup 

Even though temperatures in New Orleans are pushing the mercury to three digits, it's almost fall, and time to do a little maintenance to get your car ready for the changing weather ahead.

Take your vehicle for a full checkup. As the fall weather rolls in, it's important to have the following items checked by a professional: battery cables and terminals, belts and hoses, air filter, windshield wipers and all fluids, including anti-freeze, oil, brake, power steering, automatic transmission and windshield washer fluids.

Take care of your lights and turn signals. Fall means it's time to turn the clocks back for daylight savings time, and with a shorter day comes a longer night, so be sure your headlights, taillights and turn signals are working properly and shining at the appropriate levels.

Check your tire pressure regularly throughout the year. Uneven tread wear could indicate under-inflation, unbalanced tires or misaligned wheels. Check your tire pressure with a gauge at least once a month and regularly inspect the tread depth. Your tread will be even more important during the autumn months when wet, dead leaves cover the roadways.

Most motorists know that routine tire-pressure checks can preserve tire life and help drivers avoid potential accidents from blowouts, uneven wear and underinflation. Even so, tires can lose air pressure without appearing to be underinflated, and drivers may not notice a slow leak. New technology is taking the guesswork and potential for human error out of the equation.

In 2000, Congress passed the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act (TREAD) to improve driver and vehicle safety. One of the requirements is that all passenger cars, 2008 and newer, must be equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Now, more than 65 million vehicles in the U.S. are equipped with TPMS, and the number will continue to grow.

The technology is a warning system that informs drivers when a tire is underinflated by 25 percent or more. The TPMS warning symbol is located on your dashboard (see your owner's manual for the symbol and its location). If your low-pressure light is displayed, pull over at the nearest service station to check or inflate your tires to proper levels.

Having the right tire pressure can save you money at the pump. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates 3.56 million gallons of gas are wasted each day because of incorrectly inflated tires. Motorists who maintain proper inflation can improve gas mileage by approximately 3.3 percent.

Properly inflated tires have a positive environmental impact by releasing less carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere through better fuel efficiency.

Taking all these small maintenance steps can keep your vehicle running newer, longer — and help keep you and your family safe on the road.

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