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Cars need seasonal checkups for worry free winter driving

The Automobile Association of America (AAA) cautions motorists that cars need seasonal checkups to maintain safety and maximize operational efficiency. Regular maintenance and seasonal checkups can also help prevent unexpected repair costs.

“No one wants to be stranded by a vehicle breakdown in the middle of the cold season,” said Georjeane Blumling, spokesperson for AAA Tidewater Virginia. “Properly preparing your vehicle for winter driving is essential for the safety of all passengers.”

AAA recommends that motorists use a simple checklist to determine their vehicle’s fall and winter maintenance needs.

Winter 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.
  • Battery cables and terminals — Make sure the battery terminals and 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. Replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread. 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 more frequently in fall and winter. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures, typically by 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb. Also, check the spare.
  • 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. However, if light is blocked, replace it.
  • 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. Test the antifreeze protection level with an inexpensive tester.
  • Lights — Check the operation of all headlights, tail lights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and back-up lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs.
  • Wiper blades — The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots. In areas with snow, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup.
  • Washer fluid — Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components to prevent it from freezing.
  • Brakes — If there is any indication of a brake problem, have the system inspected by a certified technician. 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.

posted 10.25.2012

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