October is Car Care Month, and with a potentially harsh winter only a couple of months away, now is the perfect time to give your car a checkup.
As a AAA member, you can bring your vehicle to a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility during Car Care Month and request a free comprehensive safety inspection.
The free safety inspection is a helpful member benefit that can greatly reduce the chances of a breakdown, said John Nardolillo, senior vice president of member services for AAA Northeast.
“A properly maintained vehicle costs its owner less money over time,” Nardolillo said. “A regular safety check can help an owner identify a problem or potential problem before it gets worse and more expensive to fix.”
Members can request the free safety check – a $35 value – at any of the more than 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities nationwide.
What is checked
Visibility: Safe drivers need to be able to see and be seen. Yet nearly 20 percent of vehicles have one or more headlights that are burned out or broken. Your technician will test the lights, mirrors, wiper blades, horn and emergency flashers. The windshield will be inspected for cracks, pits and bull’s-eye breaks. Click here for headlight restoration tips.
Fluids: Advanced technologies in automobile fluids like motor oil make these liquids last longer than ever, but they could still go bad or spring a leak. The level and condition of the engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, engine coolant and more will be examined. The technician will look for leaks, too. Most fluid reservoirs are clear and easy to spot in the engine bay. It’s a good idea to check the levels on your own, outside the safety check, as often as once per month. Drivers should also learn how often their vehicle’s manufacturer recommended replacing each of the fluids. This will help them know when it’s actually time for new fluids – and when it’s not.
Battery: Almost 30 percent of roadside assistance calls are for battery related issues. This inspection confirms the charging and electrical systems are working, connections are tight and the battery is free of corrosion. This part is especially important with winter around the corner. Extreme cold, like extreme heat, is tough on a battery. Most only last three to five years as it is. Drivers who want to have their vehicle battery tested can also request AAA Mobile Battery Service. A battery technician will come to you and test the battery and charging system. If necessary, the technician can replace your car battery on the spot and get rid of the old one. Learn more about your car battery parts here.
Belts and Hoses: The alternator, power steering pump, water pump and air conditioning are checked, as are the corresponding belts, belt tensioners and pulleys. Belts that go bad are often shiny or cracked when you turn them over, Paul said. The technician will look for cracks and leaks in the hoses for the radiator, heater, power steering, transmission coolant and more.
Tires: Each tire, including the spare, is tested for proper air pressure and tread depth. The tires are also inspected for bulges, bruises, nicks and other damage that make them more prone to blowouts. Making sure each tire is properly inflated will help you extended the life the tires, plus it will net you better fuel economy. Tire pressure values, which can be found on the driver’s side doorjamb, are for “cold tires,” which means tires that have not recently been driven. Tire treads also play an important part in driver safety. AAA recommends tread depth of at least 3/32”. While tread depth on such a miniscule scale can seem insignificant, it makes a big difference. Tire tester Tire Rack compared the ability of a pickup truck to stop on wet pavement at 70 mph with tires at both 4/32” and 2/32”. It found that the tires with 2/32” took 122 feet longer to stop, or 24 percent more distance. To test your tire treads, insert a quarter into one of the grooves with George Washington’s head facing down. If the top of the coin above his head is visible, it’s time for a new set of tires.
When you pick up your vehicle, your technician will give you a list of recommended services or repairs. They can also provide you with a written estimate if you want to get the work done at their shop.
Repairs at these facilities are backed by a 24-month, 24,000-mile guarantee. AAA members can also save up to $50 on repairs at these stations.
Find a AAA Approved Auto Repair Station near you at AAA.com/AutoRepair.
For more car care tips, check out our Car Doctor column.