The coldest temperatures of the season, including most of Kansas forecast for below freezing low temperatures most of next week – means winter car care and preparation should be top-of-mind for vehicle owners. AAA Kansas urges motorists to get a seasonal check-up to make sure your vehicle is ready for the deep freeze.
“October is Car Care Month for a reason,” Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas public affairs manager, said. “Freezing temperatures make your vehicle work harder, particularly the charging and starting system. The first sub-freezing temperatures, specifically, can be a shock to your vehicle and leave you stranded, if your battery and other key systems are not ready for winter.”
Worry-free driving once cold weather and winter driving conditions approach may depend upon whether drivers follow simple steps to make sure the vehicle is ready. Some checks and preparations can be performed by a car owner in less than an hour. Others should be performed by a certified technician.
Winter Car Prep:
- Battery: Clean any corrosion from battery posts and cable connections and wash all surfaces with battery terminal cleaner or a solution of baking soda and water. Have the battery checked by a professional to ensure it is strong enough to face cold weather. Most batteries last 3 to 5 years, but give little warning prior to failure. AAA Mobile Battery Service technicians can be called to test a member’s battery and replace it on-site, if necessary. AAA Approved Auto Repair shops can also test and replace weak batteries.
- Tires: Examine tires for tread depth, uneven wearing and cupping. Check tire pressures once a month. For every 10 degrees the temperature drops, tires can lose a pound of pressure. Don’t forget the spare tire.
- Engine: Have any engine drivability problems corrected at a good repair shop. Symptoms like hard starts, rough idling, stalling or diminished power could signal a problem that would be exacerbated by cold weather. Engine hoses and belts should be inspected for wear or cracking.
- Fluids: Important system fluids such as engine coolant/anti-freeze, transmission and brake fluid should be checked and changed at recommended intervals.
- Exhaust: Have your mechanic check the exhaust system for leaks and look for any holes in the trunk and floorboards.
- Brakes: Inspect brakes as recommended in your owner’s manual, or sooner if you notice pulsations, pulling, noises while braking or longer stopping distance. Correct minor brake problems promptly.
- Wipers: Replace worn windshield-wiper blades. Purchase one-piece beam-type or rubber-clad “winter” blades to fight snow and ice build-up. Use cold-weather windshield washer solvent and carry an ice-scraper.
- Lights: Inspect all lights and bulbs and replace burned out bulbs. Clean road grime or clouding from all lenses.
Vehicle owners should read the maintenance requirements set by the car’s manufacturer in the owner’s manual. There is no longer a “standard” maintenance schedule for vehicle services – including brake fluid. Each automaker has different requirements, making the owner’s manual the most accurate resource. In-vehicle maintenance reminders provide good guidance because they account for real-time problems and how you actually drive. However, many reminder systems do not specifically cover maintenance operations that need to be performed on a time or mileage basis – such as brake fluid and coolant flushes or timing-belt replacement.
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.
According to AAA Kansas’ Steward, now is also the time to assemble an emergency kit equipped for winter weather to carry in your vehicle. This kit is especially important if you’ll be driving any distance and winter weather is forecast. The kit should include:
- Mobile phone pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family and emergency services, and car charger
- Drinking water
- First-aid kit
- Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
- Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
- Snow shovel
- Extra warm clothing (coat, 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)
Many of the winter emergency items listed above – plus pre-assembled multi-item kits including the 64-piece Traveler Road Kit and 66-piece Severe Weather Road Kit – are available, at a discount to AAA members, in the online store at AAA.com.