A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

AAA: As temperatures change, your car needs checkup to maintain safety, fuel efficiency — it has to work harder

With more than 31,000 AAA roadside rescues recorded last winter alone in Kentucky, AAA reminds motorists that cars need periodic checkups to maintain safety and maximize fuel efficiency.

The fall and winter seasons can also bring issues forcing drivers to the roadside. AAA recommends getting ahead of the change of season to make sure to avoid more expensive problems later on in the year. 
AAA urges motorists to use a simple checklist to determine their vehicle’s fall and 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.
“Having your vehicle serviced by professionals who are trained to identify potential problems will help prevent breakdowns and often saves money on repairs over the long term,” says Lori Weaver Hawkins, public affairs manager, AAA Blue Grass.  “Basic maintenance not only adds to the longevity of your vehicle, but also improves safety and can increase fuel mileage.”

Motorists can identify reliable, high-quality repair shops with certified technicians by looking for a AAA Car Care Insurance & Travel Center or the AAA Approved Auto Repair sign at their local repair shop. These facilities must meet and maintain high professional standards for customer service, technician training, tools, equipment, warranties and cleanliness. Nearby shops can be located at AAA.com/repair.
Harsh winter conditions make your vehicle work harder, particularly the charging and starting system, headlights, tires and windshield wipers.

AAA recommends that motorists focus on the following:
• Battery: Clean any corrosion from battery posts and cable connections and wash all surfaces with battery terminal cleaner or a solution of baking soda and water. Even at 32 degrees, a battery is 35 percent weaker. At zero degrees, a car’s battery loses about 60 percent of its strength, yet the engine needs about twice as much power to start. If your battery is 3 years or older, have the battery checked by a professional to ensure it is strong enough to face cold weather.

• Tires: Examine tires for tread depth, uneven wearing and cupping. Check tire pressures once a month when tires are cold, before driving for any distance.

• Engine: Have any engine drivability problems corrected at a good repair shop. Symptoms like hard starts, rough idling, stalling or diminished power could signal a problem that would be exacerbated by cold weather. Engine hoses and belts should be inspected for wear or cracking.

• Fluids: Important system fluids such as engine coolant/anti-freeze, transmission and brake fluid should be checked and changed at recommended intervals.

• Exhaust: Have your mechanic check the exhaust system for leaks and look for any holes in the trunk and floorboards.

• Brakes: Inspect brakes as recommended in your owner’s manual, or sooner if you notice pulsations, pulling, noises while braking or longer stopping distance. Correct minor brake problems promptly.

• Wipers: Replace worn windshield-wiper blades. Purchase one-piece beam-type or rubber-clad “winter” blades to fight snow and ice build-up. Use cold-weather windshield washer solvent and carry an ice-scraper.

• Lights: Inspect all lights and bulbs and replace burned out bulbs. Clean road grime or clouding from all lenses.

AAA of the Bluegrass

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