Winter officially starts in a little over a month from now. AAA Northeast is reminding motorists now is a great time to make sure their vehicles are prepared for the wintry weather ahead.

"Preparing now before your vehicle breaks down can save you time, money and aggravations when the mercury settles into the teens and single digits," said AAA Northeast spokesman Robert Sinclair.

He said during the winter months, AAA receives a lot of calls about flat tires, dead batteries and lockouts.

No need to warm up

Lockouts are also common problems in the winter months. Sinclair said that when some people warm up their cars, they run back in the house and when they come out, they're locked out of their vehicles. That's because many newer vehicles today lock themselves.

He said AAA recommends against warming up a car on a cold day. He said engines are built well these days. Just drive gently and everything should be fine.

Avoiding flats

When it comes to flat tires, remember this: heat expands and cold contracts. A tire will lose about one pound per square inch of tire pressure for every 10 degrees that the temperature drops. A lot of people do not check their tire pressure, which he said is crucial during the cold months.

During the super cold, tires become dangerously under inflated. Sinclair warned that under-inflated tires flex excessively and can overheat which can fail catastrophically in what is known as a "blowout."

Battery 'heart attack'

Batteries can also lose power in the cold, said Sinclair. People think if they let their battery go dead because they left the lights on in the car, for example, is no big deal. But Sinclair said that is not true.

"Your battery has had a heart attack and it will never be as good as it was before when you let it go dead," he warned.

Batteries can lose 30% of its power when temperatures are near freezing. They can lose 60% of its power when the mercury hits zero. Tires and batteries should be checked by a qualified technician.

 

Windshield

Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components. Wiper blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots.

Emergency kit

He absolutely recommends keeping an emergency kit in the car. That kit should include a bag of abrasive material such as non-clumping kitty litter or sand to help a car get traction in the ice and snow. It's also a good idea t have a snow shovel, flashlight, gloves, ice scraper, snow brush, jumper cables, blanket, warning flare or triangle, food, water, first aid kit and a working cell phone and an emergency charger.

If a person breaks down, the first rule of thumb is to pull away from the side of the road. Hopefully, there is a shoulder and a person can get the car on the shoulder away from the flow of traffic. Flat tire? Sinclair said don't stay in the middle of the road. Drive on that flat tire until a person can get off the road and into a safe place.

"You can replace a tire. You can't replace a life," he said.

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