AAA Carolinas offers winter car care checklist

Oct 28, 2013

CHARLOTTE — As temperatures fall, preparing your vehicle for winter driving is essential for the safety of all passengers. Cold temperatures can affect everything from a car's battery to its tire pressure, so proper maintenance this time of year can greatly decrease the chances of your vehicle letting you down.

AAA Carolinas has seen an increase in battery-related service calls since Tuesday and expects that trend to continue over the next few days, with the forecast calling for overnight temperatures below freezing in many areas of the Carolinas.

"When you're expecting cooler temperatures or snow, you need to be prepared," said Dusty Holcomb, president of AAA Car Care Centers. "Seasonal checkups can help prevent unexpected repair costs in the future."

Below is a simple checklist to determine your vehicle's fall and winter maintenance needs. Many of the items can be inspected by a car owner in less than an hour, but others should be performed by a certified technician.

Winter Car Care Checklist:

  • Battery and Charging System - Have your 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. When the temperature is below freezing, a battery only generates 60% of its current charge.
  • 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.
  • 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 the pressure in your tires - typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Incorrect tire pressure can reduce your vehicle's fuel economy by 3-4%. Proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner's manual or on a sticker typically located on the inside of the driver's side door. Tire pressure should be checked when your tires are cold - before you have driven one mile if possible.
  • Lights - Visibility is important - particularly when it starts getting darker earlier. 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, which 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.
  • Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids - Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels.

AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.9 million members and the public with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.