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How to prepare your car for winter

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – As winter weather begins moving into Wisconsin, AAA – The Auto Club Group urges motorists to ensure that both they and their vehicles are prepared for the snow, ice and cold.

“Winter weather can really take its toll on your vehicle,” says Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA. “Car batteries are particularly susceptible to cold temperatures. The chemical reaction inside the battery slows as temperatures drop, making it increasingly difficult to create enough voltage to start a vehicle.”

Faulty batteries cause more car starting problems than any other factor. Make sure terminals are tight and clean. If your lights seem dim or vehicle starts are sluggish, have your electrical system checked by a technician. For maximum convenience, AAA’s Battery Service (available in most areas) can inspect and install a proper replacement battery in your vehicle at home or at work if necessary.

In addition to checking your battery, AAA recommends motorists do the following:

  • Check your tires. Keep a firm grip on snowy and icy roads by making sure your tires have adequate tread depth and are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.
  • Inspect your windshield wipers. Visibility is critical when driving in adverse conditions. Replace worn wiper blades and fill washer fluid reservoir with winter formula solvent.
  • Test your lights. Activate you lights – including brake lights - and replace any bulbs that have burned out. This will help ensure that you can see and be seen.
  • Fill your fuel tank. Prevent fuel-line freeze-up by keeping your gas tank at least half-full.
  • Park your car in the garage. If you do not have a garage, put a tarp over the hood or park away from prevailing winds. To keep doors from freezing shut, place a plastic trash bag between the door and the frame.
  • Pack an emergency kit. Be sure to include a phone charger, jumper cables, warm gear for all potential passengers (boots, hats, gloves, blankets), flares, flashlight with extra batteries, food and water for all potential passengers, general first aid kit, non-clumping kitty litter, ice scraper, snow brush, shovel, and windshield washer fluid.
  • Join or renew your AAA Membership, and download the AAA App. Get the peace of mind that comes from having the nation’s most comprehensive roadside assistance program just a call or click away, as well as discounts on auto repairs and thousands of retail, lodging and dining establishments. Members are covered in any car — whether they are the driver or passenger. Please note that during severe winter weather AAA usually experiences a significant increase in road service calls. During such times, priority service is given to members who are stranded or in a dangerous situation.

Additionally, AAA reminds motorist to drive cautiously during winter weather:

  • When you see flashers, move over a lane if possible and slow down as you’re passing emergency vehicles. This law applies to any vehicle – including tow trucks – that displays flashing lights and is stationary on the side of the road.
  • Before starting out in snowy weather, remove the snow from the entire car so it doesn’t blow onto your windshield or the windshields of other drivers. Make sure your mirrors, lights, brake lights and turn signals are clean.
  • To increase your visibility, drive with your low-beam headlights illuminated at all times.
  • All passengers should be safely secured with their safety belts fastened. Any items that may become dangerous flying projectiles during a crash should be stored in the trunk.
  • Watch for icy surfaces on bridges and intersections, even when the rest of the road seems to be in good condition.
  • Always reduce your speed and increase your following distance when poor road or weather conditions prevail.
  • Look farther ahead in traffic. Actions by other drivers will alert you to problems and give you extra seconds to react.
  • When changing lanes, avoid cutting in front of trucks, which need more time and distance than passenger vehicles to stop. Hard braking may cause a vehicle to skid.
  • Never use cruise control if the roads are wet, slick or snow packed.
  • Remember that four-wheel drive helps you to get going quicker, but it won't help you stop any faster.
  • If your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes, apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal when stopping. You may feel or hear a thumping sound when the system is engaged.
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