With winter weather preview, AAA says it’s time to prepare your vehicle

By: Ragina C Ali, Mid-Atlantic AAA

TOWSON, MD (Tuesday, November 12, 2019) ––With more than 200 weather records slated to be shattered from coast to coast, frigid temperatures will move into the area Tuesday and stay through Thursday, with lows in the low 20s and highs in the mid-30s. AAA Mid-Atlantic is urging area drivers to brace themselves and keep preparation at the top of their minds in anticipation of the first bitter cold stretch of weather this season.

“No one ever plans to get stuck, but plummeting temperatures can wreak havoc on a vehicle resulting in a need for roadside assistance,” says Ragina C. Ali, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Drivers are more likely to experience dead car batteries or tire pressure issues as the temperature drops, which is why our AAA roadside assistance fleet is preparing for the expected surge in call volume in the coming days.”

Car Care is Key

AAA urges motorists to use today to prepare by getting a vehicle check, filling up the gas tank and packing a vehicle emergency kit. The AAA Car Care, Insurance and Travel Centers in Maryland offer FREE car battery checks. Motorists can see firsthand whether their car battery is strong enough to withstand the bitter cold. Visit www.AAA.com/CarCare to find a location nearest you.

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. Even at 32 degrees, a battery is 35% weaker. At zero degrees, a car’s battery loses about 60% of its strength, yet the engine needs about twice as much power to start. A battery’s life can be drained faster if devices are plugged into cars (cell phone chargers, upgraded audio and GPS devices).

Battery Cables and Terminals – Make sure the battery terminals and cable ends are free from corrosion and the connections are tight. AAA says the average car battery lasts 3-5 years. 

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 on all four tires and the spare more frequently in fall and winter. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressure – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Proper cold weather tire pressure can be found in the vehicle manual or on a sticker inside the driver’s door, not on the tire itself.

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 the light is blocked by most of the filter, 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 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 areas with snow, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup that can prevent good contact between the blade and the glass.

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 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.

Winter Emergency Kit

Motorists are advised to prepare a winter emergency kit to stow in the trunk of their vehicle to have immediately available should the need arise. More than 40% of motorists do not carry an emergency kit in their vehicle, cautions AAA Mid-Atlantic.

  • Emergency kit items to include – de-icer, shovel, ice scraper, warning flare or reflector triangle, flashlight with fresh batteries, first aid kit, jumper cables, and sand or kitty litter (for traction).
  • Pack a blanket, extra gloves and heavy but light-colored jacket, scarf or hat (so you can be seen if you have to get out of your vehicle) – if you’re stuck on the road for an extended period of time you’ll need to stay warm, especially if your vehicle is not running.
  • Snacks and beverages for passengers and pets who may be traveling with you.
  • Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench).  

Motorists should also have a cell phone with an external charger, and AAA members should travel with their membership card or have their membership number handy when calling for roadside assistance.

Vehicle Breakdown Tips

  • Pull out of the traffic lanes if your car breaks down. If faced with a vehicle emergency, safely steer your car off the roadway.
  • Turn on the emergency flashers to alert other drivers and exit the vehicle on the side facing away from traffic, if possible.
  • Once everyone is in a safe location, request roadside assistance.

AAA members can request a visit from an AAA Mobile Battery Service technician who will test their battery and replace it on-site, if necessary. AAA Car Care Centers and AAA Approved Auto Repair shops can also test and replace weak batteries. AAA Club Alliance serves more than 6 million members in 13 states and the District of Columbia, including, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Visit www.AAA.com/CarCare for more information, to find a location near you or to schedule an appointment. Be prepared for winter. Making sure your membership is active or joining AAA is important and as simple as going to www.AAA.com.

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