With temperatures dipping below freezing this week in Franklin County, proper maintenance and preparation of vehicles for the winter season needs to be on all motorists’ radar.
AAA Kansas recommends motorists use a checklist to keep track of their vehicle’s winter needs. Some 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, according to AAA Kansas. Motorists with questions or tasks they are unable to perform should consult with a local certified auto professional.
AAA recommends the following winter maintenance tips:
• 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 — 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.
Winter Emergency Road Kit
AAA also recommends assembling an emergency kit equipped for winter weather to carry in the vehicle. This kit is especially important when driving any distance when 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.
• Drinking water.
• First-aid kit.
• Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers.
• Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats.
• Snow shovel.
• Blanket or sleeping bag.
• Extra warm clothing (coat, gloves, hats, scarves), and snow boots.
• Flashlight with extra batteries.
• Window washer solvent — winter formulation with antifreeze components.
• Ice scraper with brush.
• Cloth or roll of paper towels.
• Jumper cables.
• Warning devices (flares or reflective triangles).
• Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench).
“No one wants to be stranded in the cold by a vehicle breakdown,” Shawn Steward, spokesman for AAA Kansas, said. “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.”