Winter driving can be dangerous due to changing climatic conditions such as rain, snow, colder temperatures, and less daylight. Motorists often put off needy repairs until it is too late, and find themselves, as many other millions of drivers throughout the nation, calling for roadside assistance.
October is designated as AAA Car Care Month, and is the perfect time to get your vehicle’s seasonal check-up to maintain safety and maximize efficiency while on the road.
“Preparing your vehicle properly for the upcoming winter season is essential for the safety of all passengers, and will greatly decrease your chances of breaking down while on the road,” says Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California spokesperson. “Having your vehicle checked out by a reliable mechanic, and abiding by a regular maintenance schedule, can prevent major expenses and breakdowns.”
During the AAA October Car Care Month, AAA recommends a simple checklist to determine a vehicle’s fall and winter maintenance needs:
☆ 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. Make sure the cable ends are free from corrosion and the connections are tight.
☆ Drive Belts – Inspect the underside of accessory drive belts for cracks or fraying. Many newer multi-rib “serpentine” belts are made of materials that do not show obvious signs of wear; replace these belts at 60,000-mile intervals.
☆ Engine Hoses – Inspect cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses and replace any that are brittle or excessively spongy feeling.
☆ Tire Type and Tread – In areas with heavy winter weather, installing snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. All-season tires work well in light-to-moderate snow conditions provided they have adequate tread depth. Uneven tire wear can indicate alignment, wheel balance or suspension problems that must be addressed to prevent further tire damage.
☆ Tire Pressure – Check tire inflation pressure on all four tires and the spare more frequently in fall and winter. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door.
☆ Air Filter – Check the engine 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.
☆ Coolant Levels – Check the coolant level in the overflow tank when the engine is cold. If the level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability.
☆ Lights – Check the operation of all headlights, tail lights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights. Replace any burned out bulbs.
☆ Wiper Blades – The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots.
☆ Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids – Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels.
☆ Emergency Road Kit – Carry an emergency kit equipped for winter weather. The kit should include drinking water, first- aid kit, snow shovel, blankets, warning devices (flares or triangles), and basic tool kit.
Android and iPhone users can download AAA Mobile, AAA’s mobile smartphone app that provides AAA services for all motorists, such as mapping and gas price comparison, as well as member-exclusive benefits including roadside assistance and discounts. For more information on AAA Mobile, visit AAA.com/Mobile.