There’s nothing like a road trip and AAA wants to ensure you arrive safely. Check out car care advice, suggestions for items to include in your emergency road kit and useful tips on things to remember before you hit the road.
Summer and Winter Car Care
Use our checklist to determine your car’s summer and winter maintenance needs. Most of the items can be inspected by you in less than an hour, but several others should be performed by a certified technician. AAA can point you to a reliable, high-quality repair facility with certified technicians. There are nearly 600 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities in California, Nevada, and Utah.
- Battery and Charging System – A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold or hot weather. AAA Members can request a visit from the AAA Mobile Battery Service to have their battery tested and replaced onsite, if necessary.
- Battery Cables and Terminals – Make sure all connections are secure and remove any corrosion from the terminals and posts.
- Drive Belts – Inspect belts for cracks or fraying. Turn them over and check the grooved underside where most belt wear occurs. Replace them if older than 5 years or 100,000 miles.
- Engine Hoses – Visually inspect the cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses to check for any that may be brittle or excessively spongy feeling and in need of replacement. Replace them if older than 5 years or 100,000 miles.
- Tire Type and Tread – Examine tires for uneven and excessive tread wear. If any tire has less than 3/32-inches of tread, it should be replaced. Uneven wear on the tires can indicate alignment, suspension or wheel balance problems that should be addressed to prevent further damage to the tires. In areas with heavy winter weather, changing to snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction.
- Tire Pressure – Check tire pressure more frequently during winter months. As the temperature drops, so will the pressures in the tires—typically 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found on a sticker located on the driver’s side door jamb or glove box. And, don’t forget to check the spare.
- Air Filter – Check the engine’s air filter by holding it up to a 60-watt light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if the light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.
- Antifreeze/Coolant Levels – Check the coolant level when the engine is cold. If the coolant level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. The level of antifreeze protection can be checked with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.
- Lights – Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, emergency flashers, turn signals, brake lights and back-up lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs. Clean the lenses or have them replaced or refinished if yellowed.
- Wiper Blades – Blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. In areas with snowy conditions, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade in a rubber boot to prevent ice and snow buildup that can prevent good contact between the rubber blade and the glass.
- Washer Fluid – Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a cleaning solution that has antifreeze components for cold weather use.
- Brakes – Have brakes inspected by a certified technician to ensure all components are in good working order.
- Motor Oil, Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids – Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels and condition. If you are planning to drive in extreme conditions such as hot weather or while towing a heavy trailer, switch to motor oil with higher viscosity. Check your owner's manual for specific oil and lubricant recommendations.
Emergency Road Kit
Keep these items in your car:
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Cloth or a roll of paper towels
- Warning devices (flares or triangles)
- Drinking water and non-perishable snacks (energy or granola bars)
- First-aid kit w/rubber gloves
- Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
Add the following to your emergency kit for winter travel:
- Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
- Snow shovel, ice scraper and small broom to keep windows and car clear of snow
- Tire chains or traction devices made for your vehicle—even owners of four-wheel drive vehicles should carry chains
- Gloves, hats, blankets and extra clothing
Add the following to your emergency kit for summer travel:
Before You Hit the Road
- Give a copy of your itinerary to a close friend or family member
- Take advantage of AAA Maps, AAA TourBook® guides, and AAA TripTik travel planners to create your adventure
- Program your mobile phone with important numbers, including AAA Emergency Road Service. And don’t forget a mobile phone charger for your car
- Review tips for staying safe in the event your car experiences an unexpected breakdown
- Review advice and tips for safer winter driving. Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive. You might want to delay trips when especially bad weather is expected.
- Call 511 to check road conditions before you depart or call these state-specific phone numbers:
California: 800-427-7623 or www.dot.ca.gov
Nevada: 877-687-6237 or www.nevadadot.com
Utah: 866-511-8824 or www.udot.utah.gov