AAA offers critical maintenance tips for winterWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
AAA of Northwest Ohio warns drivers that auto maintenance is the key to avoiding breakdowns and costly repair bills especially during the winter season.
Disregarding maintenance of a vehicle can result in costly repairs but also can put drivers, passengers and others on the road in danger, according to AAA.
“Preventive maintenance is the best way to avoid having your vehicle break down on the road,” said Eric Johnson, director of automotive services for AAA of Northwest Ohio. “Taking care of your vehicle can not only prevent a breakdown but also cost far less than a major repair that might be needed if regular maintenance is not followed.”
The best way to catch problems before they happen is to have vehicles serviced regularly based on the manufacturers’ recommended maintenance schedule, Johnson said.
“Some motorists have cut back on maintenance or delayed needed repairs due to tight budgets in this tough economy, especially if the vehicle is drivable. With proper budgeting and regular maintenance, it can save drivers money, time and potential problems,” Johnson said.
Now that winter has arrived, there are key components for winter car care that are susceptible to failure or wear when the temperature drops. AAA recommends checking antifreeze protection and flushing the cooling system if needed, checking for worn hoses and belts and examining brakes, tires, the battery and electrical system.
Antifreeze is usually the first item people think of when it comes to winter maintenance. AAA recommends a 50-50 solution of engine coolant and water to provide the necessary antifreeze capability.
The coolant solution will only work if it stays in the system so the hoses and clamps that carry the mixture must be in good working order. Visually inspect cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Feel the hoses to check for any that may be brittle or excessively soft and spongy.
Motorists should have the cooling system flushed and filled with new coolant as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, usually every two to five years.
The efficiency of the battery decreases in colder temperatures. Have the battery’s condition tested, especially if it is more than three years old. AAA’s Mobile Battery Service will test auto batteries for its members at no charge.
Wiper blades should completely clear the windshield with each swipe. If there are streaks or missed spots, AAA advises that it’s time to replace them. Winter wiper blades can help prevent ice and snow buildup that can inhibit good contact between the rubber blades and glass.
Traction is the key to safe winter driving and having the right type of tires on vehicles is essential, according to AAA. Using snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best traction in heavy winter weather. All-season tires will work well in light to moderate conditions, provided they have adequate tread depth of no less than 3/32-inch.
Brake problems that may have developed in good weather could become worse when traction is reduced in winter driving. Brakes that are likely to grab or pull on a dry road are likely to lock on ice or snow-covered pavement.
Most manufacturers recommend that the brake system be flushed and filled with new fluid every two to three years to avoid water in the system that causes rust, leaks and brake failure.
“Properly preparing your vehicle for winter is essential for safe driving and will decrease the chances of your vehicle leaving you stranded in the cold,” Johnson said.
AAA of Northwest Ohio operates three auto maintenance and repair facilities in Toledo that meet high professional standards with ASE certified technicians. Those Car Care Centers are located on Airport Highway, West Central Avenue, and North Towne Square Drive.
Some maintenance and repairs are best done by certified auto technicians, but there are several basic items motorists can check themselves, such as checking the oil, other fluid levels, windshield wiper blades and washer fluid, air pressure in tires, air filter and battery cable connections, according to AAA.
Many do-it-yourselfers can usually check those items themselves, while other drivers may want to rely on professional service technicians for their maintenance needs available.
Many of the service technicians working in auto dealerships and service shops in this area are trained in the Automotive Service Management program at Owens Community College. About 200 students per semester are enrolled in the program which has a 100 percent placement rate, according to Tracy Campbell, chairman of the program at Owens.
AAA Car Care Centers have hired numerous graduates of the program from Owens, said Johnson, who serves on the advisory board for it there.
AAA provides an Approved Auto Repair Search locator on its website for access to information on 8,000 approved repair facilities across North America. It includes four auto body and repair shops in Toledo, in addition to its Car Care Centers.
AAA provides travel, insurance, financial and auto services to 51 million members in North America. For more information, visit www.AAA.com.