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Car Care Month
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October is Car Care Month, an ideal time to remind motorists as the weather cools, motorists should complete a seasonal vehicle checkup to maintain safety and maximize efficiency.
AAA recommends motorists use this simple checklist to determine their vehicle’s fall and winter maintenance needs. Many of the items on the list can be inspected by a car owner in less than an hour, but others should be performed by a certified technician. Motorists can identify reliable, high-quality repair shops with certified technicians by looking for the AAA Approved Auto Repair sign. These facilities must meet and maintain high professional standards for customer service, technician training, tools, equipment, warranties and cleanliness. Nearby shops can be located at AAA.com/repair.
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 shops can also test and replace weak batteries.
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 have an 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 the inflation pressures of 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. Proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s door jamb.
Air Filter Check the engine air filter by holding it up to a bright 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 by most of the filter, replace it. Some filters are made of materials that do not pass light; replace these filters at the automakers’ recommended intervals.
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 annually with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.
Lights Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, 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 regions where snow is common, consider installing wiper blades that have a one-piece plastic “beam” frame, or “winter blades” that wrap the metal frame in a rubber boot – both of these designs help prevent snow and ice buildup that can interfere with blade-to-glass contact.
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 are any indications of brake problems, such as a low pedal, grinding noise or steering pull under braking, have the system inspected by a certified technician.
Engine, 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:
- Mobile phone (and car charger) pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family and emergency services
- Drinking water
- First-aid kit
- Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
- Traction aids (sand, salt, non-clumping cat litter, traction mats)
- Snow shovel
- Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves)
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Window washer solvent
- Ice scraper with brush
- Cloth or roll of paper towels
- Jumper cables
- Warning devices (flares or triangles)
- Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
Need help with some of these items? Find reliable, high-quality repair shops with certified technicians by looking for the AAA Approved Auto Repair sign. These facilities must meet and maintain high professional standards for customer service, technician training, tools, equipment, warranties and cleanliness. Nearby shops can be located at AAA.com/autorepair.