AAA Car Care Insurance Travel Center in Marlton, New Jersey
Q: Dropping temperatures, road salt, potholes and even the beautiful but traction-minimizing snow—how do I protect my vehicle during the winter months and keep it on the go?
A: The following tips will help you prepare for whatever winter weather comes your way.
Maintenance and Checkups
Car cleanliness: Salt buildup during winter is common and can cause premature corrosion to your vehicle. Salt buildup can also significantly alter your ability to see through the windshield. Make sure that you clean your car frequently and have good wiper blades along with plenty of windshield washer fluid.
Vehicle battery: Visit your local AAA Car Care Insurance Travel store to have your battery tested before the extreme cold sets in. According to AAA’s Automotive Research Center, at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, a car’s battery loses 35 percent of its strength, and at zero degrees Fahrenheit, it loses a whopping 60 percent of its strength. Couple that weakening of the battery with winter conditions requiring more frequent use of accessories such as headlights, wiper blades and the heater, and it’s clear that cold weather strains your car battery’s abilities to function. Plus, the starter, which is run by the battery, typically requires more amperage to be drawn from the battery in colder temperatures. The average lifespan of a battery is three to five years, but with the increase in the use of electronics in vehicles, that lifespan is starting to move a lot closer to three years.
Tires: Tires must have a tread of 6/32 inches or more to handle snow safely. Consider a dedicated snow-only tire, as traction increases dramatically when compared with all-season tires. Be aware of your tire-pressure light as well. Your tire pressure will decrease about one pound per square inch (psi) for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit that the outside air temperature drops. Low air pressure can reduce your fuel economy, create greater stopping distance, increase tire wear and tear, and even potentially cause a tire blowout.
Belts, hoses and antifreeze: Belts and hoses are made of rubber and other products that can become brittle or swollen and break, leaving you stranded. Check your vehicle’s coolant, hoses and belts to help prevent a breakdown.
Safety and Supplies
Even if you follow these steps, you can still have a breakdown in the winter from the failure of any mechanical component in your car. Typically, a breakdown occurs at a time when you don’t expect it, so be sure to have the following items in your vehicle: a flashlight with spare batteries, an ice scraper, a folding shovel, a blanket, hand warmers, first-aid supplies, jumper cables and road hazard signs. Of course, none of these items will be helpful if they are not easily accessible, so keep your trunk, or other storage area, clean and organized.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of AAA World.