As sub-freezing low temperatures return to Kansas this week, vehicles that have not been properly maintained and prepared for winter conditions could leave drivers stuck, literally, out in the cold, AAA Kansas warns.
“No one wants to be stranded in the cold by a vehicle breakdown,” said Shawn Steward, spokesman for AAA Kansas. “Properly preparing your vehicle for winter driving is essential for the safety of all passengers and will greatly decrease the chances of your vehicle letting you down. Based on calls to AAA Emergency Roadside Assistance, the most common problems that arise this time of year are with dead batteries or improperly inflated tires, both of which are aggravated by a sudden cold snap.”
AAA Kansas recommends that motorists use a simple checklist to determine their 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 members can request a visit from a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician who will test their battery and replace it on-site, if necessary. AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities can also 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 Pressure – Check tire inflation pressure more frequently in fall and winter. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb. Also, check the spare.
Tire Type and Tread – Replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread. Uneven tire wear can indicate alignment, wheel balance or suspension problems that must be addressed to prevent further tire damage. All-season tires work well in light to moderate snow conditions, provided they have adequate tread depth.
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 with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.
Wiper Blades – The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots. 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.
Lights – Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and back-up lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs so you can see and be seen in dark or winter weather conditions.
Motorists can identify reliable, high-quality repair facilities with certified technicians by looking for the AAA Approved Auto Repair sign. 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.
Winter Emergency Road Kit
According to AAA Kansas’ Steward, now is also a great time to begin assembling an emergency kit equipped for winter weather to carry in your vehicle. This kit is especially important if you’ll be driving any distance and winter weather is forecast. The kit should include:
Mobile phone pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family and emergency services, and car charger
Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
Blanket or sleeping bag
Extra warm clothing (coat, gloves, hats, scarves)
Flashlight with extra batteries
Window washer solvent – winter formulation with antifreeze components
Ice scraper with brush
Cloth or roll of paper towels
Warning devices (flares or reflective triangles)
Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
Many of the winter emergency items listed above – plus pre-assembled multi-item kits including the 73-piece Explorer Road Kit and 66-piece Winter Safety Road Kit – are available, at a discount to AAA members, in the online store at AAA.com.
AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than 342,000 members in Kansas. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. AAA is a not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.AAA.com.