The recent frigid cold has made for a stressful beginning to 2018, and upcoming single digit temperatures have the potential to make it worse. But all too often, motorists forget that there is something else in their life that is also enduring the harshness of winter: their vehicle.
"It’s not too late to take a look either give your car a quick inspection, or to get it into a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility," said Scott Tennant, AAA East Central Director of Emergency Roadside Service Field Operations. "It’s better to check your vehicle sooner than later – before you are stranded with a dead battery, faulty wiper blades, or tires with low traction."
Winter Car Care Checklist
Battery and Charging System – Have the battery and charging system tested by a trained technician. A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather. AAA members can request a visit from a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician who will test their battery and replace it on-site, if necessary. AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities can also test and replace weak batteries.
Battery Cables and Terminals – Check the condition of the battery cables and terminals. Make sure all connections are secure and remove any corrosion from the terminals and posts.
Drive Belts – Inspect belts for cracks or fraying. Don’t just look at the smooth top surface of the belt, but turn it over and check the grooved underside where most belt wear occurs.
Engine Hoses –Visually inspect the cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses to check for any that may be brittle or excessively spongy feeling and in need of replacement.
Tire Type and Tread – In areas with heavy winter weather, changing to snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. All-season tires will work well in light to moderate snow conditions, providing they have adequate tread depth. If any tire has less than 3/32-inches of tread, it should be replaced. Uneven wear on the tires can indicate alignment, suspension or wheel balance problems that should be addressed to prevent further damage to the tires.
Tire Pressure – Check tire pressure more frequently during winter months. As the temperature drops, so will the pressures in the tires—typically 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found on a sticker located on the driver’s side door jamb. And, don’t forget to check the spare.
Air Filter – Check the engine’s air filter by holding it up to a 60-watt light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if the light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.
Coolant Levels – Check the coolant level when the engine is cold. If the coolant level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. The level of antifreeze protection can be checked with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.
Lights – Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, emergency flashers, turn signals, brake lights and back-up lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs.
Wiper Blades – Blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace blades that leave streaks or miss spots. In areas with snowy conditions, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade in a rubber boot to prevent ice and snow buildup that can prevent good contact between the rubber blade and the glass.
Washer Fluid – Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a cleaning solution that has antifreeze components for cold weather use.
Brakes – Have brakes inspected by a certified technician to ensure all components are in good working order.
Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids – Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels.
Emergency Road Kit – Update the car’s emergency kit for winter weather. The kit should include:
Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
Flashlight with extra batteries
Window washer solvent
Cloth or roll of paper towels
Gloves, hats and blankets
Warning devices (flares or triangles)
Non-perishable snacks (energy or granola bars)
Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
Mobile phone and car charger with important numbers programmed in it, including a roadside assistance provider
AAA advises people stop by a nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facility for help preparing their vehicle for winter. AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities must meet and maintain high professional standards for customer service, technician training, service equipment, warranties and cleanliness. Nearby shops can be quickly located using the AAA Mobile App, or at AAA.com/repair.