Slowly but surely, temperatures are dropping across the Garden State this fall. And while Thanksgiving isn't looking like a problem, the holiday season and the long winter that follows may present red flags for New Jerseyans' cars.

Joe Erickson, territory manager of the AAA Club Alliance Approved Auto Repair program, said cold weather is a "trigger" for drivers to ensure everything about their vehicles is operating correctly.

Of the many components that make up a smooth ride, Erickson said there are three in particular that New Jerseyans should prioritize above all others.

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First, the battery.

The battery is the heart of a car's electrical system, and an old or depleted one could spell trouble on a frigid morning.

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"Know ahead of time. Get your battery checked," Erickson said. "The estimated lifespan of a battery is three to five years, and extreme temperatures reduce its ability to perform."

Second, the tires.

"We call them sneakers, because the tread funnels water off, much like the traction of your sneakers on a floor when you're playing basketball," Erickson said.

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He said if the tread on any tire is approaching 4/32nds, that's a sign to take the car to the shop and consider replacing that rubber.

Third, windshield wipers and washers.

Erickson recommends keeping windshield wiper fluid as close to full as possible, as often as possible, just like the usual advice of not allowing gas or engine oil to get too low during the winter.

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"Especially on a day where your windshield is iced over, scrape the ice off your windshield," he said. "You may need to leave that car idle long enough to get the defroster to clear the windshield."

That brings to mind New Jersey's no-idling law. Erickson said for newer models, letting a car run for a long period of time is not necessary, but at least some warmup is needed. Use your judgment, he said.

As for that pesky tire pressure light, Erickson said it's common to see that come on this time of year, as pressure is expected to decrease slightly as the air temperature goes down.

"Don't be alarmed; that's somewhat normal," he said. "If it's too low, check with your shop, have some air added to your tires."

As always, he said, AAA stands ready to rescue stranded drivers during winter weather events, and can even call 911 on behalf of a driver in a true emergency.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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