WINSTON COUNTY - Severe winter weather can be both frightening and dangerous when driving. Both the motorist and the vehicle need to be prepared for the challenging winter driving conditions. “Good traction and vision is vital for safe winter travel and a healthy battery is a must,” said Clay Ingram, public relations manager for AAA Alabama. AAA’s Winter Car Care Checklist can help determine a vehicle’s 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.
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 Approved Auto Repair shops can 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.
- Tire Type and Tread – All-season tires work well in light-to -moderate snow conditions provided they have adequate tread depth.
- 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 pressures – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Emergency Road Kit – Carry an emergency kit equipped for winter weather.
Common Components for an Emergency Road Kit
- Tool kit: Screwdrivers, wrenches, duct tape, zip ties, hammer, pliers, etc.
- Sand or Cat Litter or Salt
- Booster Cables
- Pencil & Paper
- Owner’s manual
- Flares and/or Reflectors
- Fire Extinguisher
- First Aid Kit
- Spare Tire & Changing Equip.
- Flashlight (with good batteries)
- Snacks & bottled water
- Phone and charger
- Ice Scraper
- Important Medicines
- Avoid driving while fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risk.
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze up or becoming stranded without gas.
- If possible, avoid using your parking brake when extremely cold
- Do not use cruise control when driving on slippery surfaces.
- In a skid, always look and steer where you want to go
- Use your seat belt every time you get into the vehicle
- Avoid distractions
- Clear all ice and snow from your vehicle
- Take it slow
- Leave at least 6-8 seconds of following distance between you and the car in front of yours.
- Don’t go if you don’t have to! Give plow trucks the room and time to condition the roads.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.