It is a jolt to the system: human, creature, mechanical, and otherwise. The official start of winter is weeks away. However, a blast of arctic air is about to blow the coldest weather so far this fall into the Mid-Atlantic. Current above-average November temperatures are about to give way to a December-like chill across the region by the weekend, according to AccuWeather, bringing back memories of last winter’s wrath.
In the wake of the Polar Vortex, emergency roadside assistance crews at AAA Mid-Atlantic came to the rescue of thousands of stranded motorists. In fact, the auto club assisted 762,627 motorists in the mid-Atlantic region in the period from December 2013 through March 2014. That total represents a 15.3 increase over the previous season (December 2012-March 2013).
To avoid becoming a causality of winter’s wiles and ire, AAA recommends motorists have their vehicles checked by a trusted mechanic, as well as perform regular checks themselves, in order to stay safe and prevent expensive repairs in the future. Batteries and tires are two things motorists should not neglect this winter, as harsh weather and cold temperatures can take a toll on these vital vehicle parts.
“The onset of colder weather is a good reminder for motorists to ready their vehicle before winter officially strikes,” advised Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Motorists can prepare by performing routine maintenance on their vehicle and equipping it with a winter weather driving kit.”
While some breakdowns are unavoidable, there are some that could have been prevented with proper vehicle maintenance ahead of harsh winter weather Batteries and tires typically top the list of winter repairs, both of which can be checked ahead of time to prevent unnecessary and perhaps more expensive repairs.
AAA Steps to Make Your Car Winter Ready
- Get a checkup. Give your car a complete once-over, especially if it is older than five years. Make sure all belts are tight and hoses are not leaky. Test all lights.
- Test battery. Make sure battery cables are tightly connected and corrosion-free. According to AAA’s Automotive Research Center, at 0°F, a car’s battery loses about 60 percent of its strength and at 32°F it loses 35 percent. During cold temperatures starting an engine can take up to twice as much current as needed under normal conditions While three to five years is a typical life span, various internal and environmental conditions impact a battery’s long term health. Periodic inspection, testing, and cleaning are suggested and monitoring the use of accessories and electronic devices when your car is not running can help maximize its longevity.
- Check tires. During cold weather, tire inflation pressure decreases 1-2 psi for every 10 degrees of temperature change. Make sure pressure levels match those found in either the owner’s manual or on the driver’s door jamb, and note that pressure levels may be different for front and rear tires. Visually inspect tires for cracks or bulges, and ensure tread depth is adequate.
- Oil and filters. Be diligent about checking the oil and filter on a regular basis. Low oil level, as well as dirty oil, can compromise your engine in extreme cold.
- Keep it clean. Get your car to the car wash frequently to scrub off de-icing chemicals and salt. Besides eroding your car’s paint, these items can also reduce visibility by clinging to windows and mirrors.
- Pack a bag. Don’t leave home without an emergency kit in the truck with a fully charged cell phone and charger, ice scraper, shovel, jumper cables, flashlight, blanket, drinking water, and a high-protein snack. Kitty litter, sand or salt will help with traction if your vehicle becomes stuck.
Motorists seeking a trustworthy repair shop to help prepare their vehicle for winter driving are encouraged to visit one of AAA’s more than 8,000 Approved Auto Repair facilities or visit a AAA Car Care Center. These facilities must meet and maintain high professional standards for customer service, technician training, tools, equipment, warranties and cleanliness.
In addition, AAA Mid-Atlantic offers battery replacement service through its roadside assistance operations and at select Approved Auto Repair (AAR) facilities throughout the region. To request service call 1-800-AAA-HELP or for a battery price quote visit: https://midatlantic.aaa.com/Automotive/MobileBattery.