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Out Cold

3 Tips to Prep Your Car for Winter

By Joanna Newton


Cold weather is here, and even though you live in the South, it can still have an impact on your car. You don't have to have snow to encounter problems such as your car not starting. Any time the temperature drops below freezing, your car's battery can be adversely affected.

The Southeast experienced a deep freeze in 2010 that stretched from Tennessee to Florida, wreaking havoc for many drivers. AAA's call volume from stranded members spiked throughout the entire region on mornings when cold fronts moved across the southern states. In order to prevent situations where you find yourself with a car that won't start on a cold morning, you may want to take some simple precautions.

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Make sure your car battery is in proper working order. Cars have trouble starting in cold temperatures because car batteries can experience a chemical reaction that actually reduces their power output, and a cold engine is harder to start. If your car has a difficult time starting on a cold morning, it might put an undue strain on the battery. This, in turn, can tax the alternator as well, as it will have to work harder to recharge the battery once the vehicle does start. The battery is a critical component to starting your car and must be kept charged to perform properly.

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Should you have trouble with your car and are not sure if it is battery related, remember that AAA has state-of-the-art mobile battery testing services in most major cities. Through this test we can identify whether it is your battery charge, alternator or other electrical system component that is preventing your car from starting. And if you do have a dead battery, in most cases AAA can bring you a AAA-branded battery with a 72-month warranty and a 36-month FREE replacement warranty. (If your battery fails anytime during the 36-month warranty period, AAA will come to you and replace the battery for free.)

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Be sure to keep your car properly maintained. In cold winter temperatures, you may need to change the grade of your engine oil; your owner's manual will have recommendations. Also, colder weather can reduce tire pressure, so you'll want to check that often. (This can also save you on gas mileage.)

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Don't forget that as a AAA member you are entitled to a Free Maintenance Inspection (a $24.95 value) at any Approved Auto Repair facility, upon request. The facility will inspect your car for the most frequent contributors to roadside breakdowns, then provide you with recommendations for any necessary maintenance or repairs. Go online to AAA.com, call 1-800-AAA-HELP, or visit your local AAA office to find an Approved Auto Repair facility located near you.

This winter season, make sure you are ready to get where you need to be without any car troubles. The old adage "It's better to be safe than sorry" definitely applies to ensuring that your car is functioning properly.

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