Winter vehicle preparation checklist
Before the snow flies, be sure to prepare your vehicle for the cold temperatures and icy conditions that come with it.
AAA recommends checking the following items on your vehicle in advance of winter, and recommends drivers refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for maintenance recommendations.
Battery: Recharge or replace weak batteries. A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather. A starting/charging system test performed by a qualified technician will determine a battery’s strength before winter starts.
Tires: Check for proper inflation and condition. Cold temperatures cause tire pressure to decrease 1 to 2 psi for every 10-degree drop in outside temperature. Under-inflated tires can be dangerous and may suffer damage.
To check tire tread, look for “wear bars” that periodically run across the hollow of each tread. If the tread has been worn down to the same height as the wear bar, it’s time for new tires.
Engine oil: Check levels and change at the interval recommended in your owner’s manual. Your vehicle may require different weight oil for cold-weather operation.
Windshield wipers, fluid and defroster: Make sure wipers and defroster are in good shape. Fill washer fluid reservoirs with no-freeze washer fluid. Carry an extra supply of washer fluid in your car.
Heating and cooling system: Check radiator hoses for leaks, bulges and cracks. Add antifreeze mixture if low and replenish if the liquid is discolored. Have your coolant checked with a hydrometer to be sure there is adequate cold-weather protection, typically a 5050 mix or coolant and water. Some vehicles require a flush of the system every other year. Test heater and defroster.
Prepare a winter driving kit: Include an ice scraper with snow brush, flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, cell phone and car charger, general first aid kit, tire chains, blanket, extra set of warm clothes, gloves and boots, non-clumping kitty litter for traction, flares or reflective triangles, gallon jug of water, non-perishable food items, window washer solvent and shovel.
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