Winter is fast approaching: Is your car ready?

Published: Oct. 9, 2017 at 12:55 PM CDT
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October is Car Care Month, and AAA South Dakota is advising drivers to prepare their vehicle before Old Man Winter is knocking on the door.

Vehicle maintenance is key, and there are a few simple things every driver can do to make sure their car is road-ready for the winter ahead.

Today’s engineering advancements require less maintenance at less frequent intervals. Examples, AAA South Dakota notes, include oil-change intervals now recommended at 5,000 to 10,000 or more miles, transmission fluids designed to last 100,000 miles and sealed batteries that never need to have fluid added. Even with these advancements, vehicles still require routine services that are important to maintaining the performance and safety of the vehicle.

October is the perfect month to make sure your vehicle is winter ready. The weather is mild, and there is plenty of time to deal with the potentially costly repairs before winter weather sets in. To ensure your vehicle is properly maintained, AAA South Dakota recommends this checklist to motorists:

Winter Car Care Checklist


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. AAA members can request a visit from a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician who will test their battery and replace it on-site, if necessary.


Battery Cables and Terminals

– Make sure the battery terminals and cable ends are free from corrosion and the connections are tight.


Drive Belts

– Inspect the underside of accessory drive belts for cracks or fraying. Many 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 feel excessively spongy.



- Winter tires or snow tires are recommended for South Dakota because they are built specifically to perform in winter conditions like low temperatures, ice, slush, and snow. The tread compound of all-season tires can harden in low temperatures, so there's less traction between the road and your tires. But winter tires use special rubber compounds that stay pliable in the cold, giving them better grip and improved braking, even in extreme conditions.


Tire Pressure

– Check your tires’ inflation pressure more frequently in fall and winter. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by one pound per square inch (PSI) for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb or on the door of the glove compartment. Also, check your spare, if you have one. Many newer cars come without one.


Air Filter

– Check the engine air filter by holding it up to a bright light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.


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 auto parts stores or go to a qualified auto tech.



– Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights. Replace any burnt-out bulbs.


Wiper Blades

– The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blades that leave streaks or miss spots.


Washer Fluid

– Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components to prevent it from freezing.



– If there is any indication of a brake problem, have the system inspected by a certified technician to ensure all components are in good working order.


Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids

– Check all fluids under the hood to make sure they are at or above the minimum safe levels.


Emergency Road Kit

– Carry an emergency kit equipped for winter weather. The kit should include:

- Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, clay-based kitty litter) or traction mats

- Snow shovel

- Flashlight with extra batteries

- Windshield washer solvent

- Ice scraper with brush

- Cloth or roll of paper towels

- Jumper cables (and know how to use them)

- Extra warm clothing such as gloves, hats and scarves

- Blankets

- Warning devices such as flares or triangles

- Drinking water

- Non-perishable snacks for both humans and pets

- First-aid kit

- Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench, duct tape)

- Cell phone and car charger cord. Pre-program your phone with rescue apps ( and important phone numbers including family and emergency services.