AAA Reminds Motorists to Prep Vehicles for Winter Weather

HYANNIS – The region got its first taste of frigid temperatures this week and AAA is reminding motorists to get their vehicles ready for the winter season.

AAA Northeast Director of Public and Legislative Affairs Mary Maguire said motorists should take the steps needed to make sure vehicles are ready before the winter weather is here to stay.

“If you do have a battery that is marginal, if you need to have your coolant topped off, or you’ve got another issue with your car you don’t want to find out about it when you are stranded at the roadside and it is 12 degrees outside,” Maguire said.

Maguire said the top priority should be to check tires.

Motorists should make sure tires have the proper tread. Winter tires should also be installed, if needed, as soon as possible.

“Tires are of paramount importance,” Maguire said. “That’s really where the rubber meets the road, literally, when it comes to your car.”

The next top priority, according to Maguire, is the battery.

The average car on the road in the United States is nearly 12 years old, and in New England the useful life of a battery for the average driver is three to four years.

“If your battery is three to four years old, you want to make sure you are getting it tested and that it is in good shape,” Maguire said.

Up to 50 percent of the charging capacity of a battery can be lost due to frigid winter temperatures.

Windshield wipers should also be inspected before winter weather arrives.

“A lot of us go through the summer and we have a few rain storms and we don’t pay much attention,” Maguire said. “All of a sudden we are in a situation where it is winter, or we are experiencing winter weather, and the visibility isn’t what it should be.”

Similar to tire conditions, Maguire said poor windshield wipers can be a safety issue for motorists, passengers, other drivers or pedestrians.

Other recommendations include checking fluid levels, including coolant, oil and windshield washer fluid.

The coolant level should be checked 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. The 50/50 mix will protect the vehicle’s engine to -34 degrees.

The antifreeze protection level can be tested with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.

The cooling system should also be checked for leaks, cracks or loose clamps.

“Make sure that those hoses are in good shape,” Maguire said. “If they feel brittle or spongy when you squeeze them, they should be replaced.”

It is also recommended to fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components. Some washer solution is rated to just 20 degrees and can freeze and damage the washer system in cold weather.

When purchasing washer fluid, look for fluid that protects well below freezing temperatures.

AAA also recommends preparing a winter emergency kit, especially for families with children.

“You don’t want to be out there when it is a real feel of 12 degrees and you are with your family and your car breaks down and you have no supplies with which to keep people comfortable,” Maguire said.

Winter emergency kits should include jumper cables, water, snacks, blankets, deicer, and even emergency flares.

AAA also says that extensive engine warm ups are not necessary even in very cold weather.

A more fuel-efficient technique is start the engine, settle in with your favorite radio station and fastened seat belt, and then drive reasonably until the engine comes up to operating temperature. This will help extend the life of the vehicle.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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