Before heading over the river and through the woods to your holiday celebrations, whether close to home or far away, the roadside assistance experts at AAA recommend paying particular attention to your sleigh. While checking tire pressure is something drivers can do, other items on the recommended checklist may be best left to the experts. So don’t delay, schedule a visit with your favorite mechanic today.
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.
Battery cables and terminals. Check the condition of the battery cables and terminals. Make sure all connections are secure and remove any corrosion from the terminals and posts.
Drive belts. Inspect belts for cracks or fraying. Don’t just look at the smooth top surface of the belt; turn it over and check the grooved underside where most belt wear occurs.
Engine hoses. Visually inspect the cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses to check for any that may be brittle or excessively spongy feeling and in need of replacement.
Tire type and tread. All-season tires work well in St. Louis’ light to moderate snow conditions, providing they have adequate tread depth. But if you are planning a road trip to an area with heavy winter weather, changing to snow tires will provide the best winter traction. If any tire has less than 3/32-inches of tread, it should be replaced. Uneven wear on the tires can indicate alignment, suspension or wheel balance problems that should be addressed to prevent further damage to the tires.
Tire pressure. Check tire pressure more frequently during winter months. As the temperature drops, so will the pressures in the tires, typically 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found on a sticker located on the driver’s side door jamb. And don’t forget to check the spare.
Air filter. Check the engine’s 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 when the engine is cold. If the coolant level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. The level of antifreeze protection can be checked with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.
Lights. Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, emergency flashers, turn signals, brake lights and back-up lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs.
Wiper blades. Blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace blades that leave streaks or miss spots. In areas with snowy conditions, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade in a rubber boot to prevent ice and snow buildup, ensuring better contact between the rubber blade and the glass.
Washer fluid. Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a cleaning solution that has antifreeze components for cold weather use.
Brakes. Have brakes 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.
Emergency road kit. Update the car’s emergency kit for winter weather. The kit should include:
• Bag of abrasive material [sand, salt, cat litter] or traction mats
• Snow shovel
• Snow brush
• Flashlight with extra batteries
• Window washer solvent
• Ice scraper
• Cloth or roll of paper towels
• Jumper cables
• Gloves, hats and blankets
• Warning devices [flares or triangles]
• Drinking water
• Non-perishable snacks [energy or granola bars]
• Extra clothes
• First-aid kit
• Basic toolkit [screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench]
• Mobile phone and car charger with important numbers programmed in it, including a roadside assistance provider