October is Car Care Month, an ideal time to remind motorists that seasonal changes can have an adverse effect on a vehicle’s performance. AAA recommends as the weather cools, motorists should complete a seasonal vehicle checkup to maintain safety and maximize efficiency.

“It is important that motorists keep their vehicles operating safely” said Montrae Waiters, spokeswoman, AAA–The Auto Club GroupNeglecting routine maintenance can damage your vehicle and leave you stranded on the side of the road with an unexpected repair bill.”

A professional and thorough maintenance inspection can help reduce the chance of a serious breakdown. If a car does end up at a repair shop, motorists can expect to spend anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars to get back on the road. AAA recommends that motorists use a simple checklist to determine their car’s fall maintenance needs.

Fall 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.
  • Engine hoses — Inspect cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses and replace any that are brittle or excessively spongy feeling.
  • Tire type and tread — Replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread. Uneven tire wear can indicate alignment, wheel balance or suspension problems that must be addressed to prevent further tire damage.
  • Tire pressure — Check tire inflation pressure.  As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures, typically by 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb. Also, check the spare.
  • Air filter — Check the engine 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 light is blocked, 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.
  • Lights — Check the operation of all headlights, tail lights, 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 blade that leaves streaks or misses spots.
  • Washer fluid — A dirty windshield causes eye fatigue and can pose a safety hazard. Make sure you fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir.
  • Brakes — If there is any indication of a brake problem have the system inspected by a certified technician. Check all fluids (transmission, brake and power steering fluids) to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels.
  • Emergency road kit — Carry an emergency kit equipped for winter weather. Make sure to include a charged cellular phone, blankets, food, water and any needed medication.

Additionally, AAA reminds drivers to take the following safety precautions on the road:

  • Drive distraction-free. Do not text or engage in distracting activities while driving, including interacting with a cell phone, talking with passengers or reaching for objects in the vehicle.
  • Comply with the Move Over Law. Observe the Move Over Law. When law enforcement, tow providers or emergency vehicles are on the side of the road, change lanes or slow down to give sufficient clearance. This is the law in all 50 states.
  • Pull out of the traffic lanes if your car breaks down. If faced with a vehicle emergency, safely steer your car off the roadway. Turn on the emergency flashers to alert other drivers and exit the vehicle on the side facing away from traffic, if possible. Once everyone in the vehicle is at a safe location, request assistance from a road service provider.