Winterize your vehicle before cold weather arrives

— Last year was one of the most active winter seasons in Colorado history. In late December 2006, Colorado received two back-to-back storms that combined to produce up to five feet of snow.

As a result, requests for roadside assistance to AAA Colorado surged.

"Our call volumes for roadside assistance reached unprecedented levels," said David MacDonald, AAA Colorado roadside assistance manager. "We hope motorists will take extra care in winterizing their vehicle this year before the first snowflake so they don't experience the inconvenience of mechanical problems with their vehicle."

AAA encourages motorists to check their vehicles before the onset of winter driving conditions. Following is a checklist:

Check the battery

Cold weather is hard on batteries. At a comparatively mild 32 degrees, a battery is 35 percent weaker than at warmer temperatures. At zero degrees, a car's battery loses approximately 60 percent of its strength. A battery load test performed by a qualified technician will determine a battery's strength for winter starts.

Check the tires

They should always be inflated to their specified poundage and have enough tread to handle all road conditions. To check tire tread, look for "wear bars" that periodically run across the hollow of each tread. If the tread has been worn down to the same height as the wear bar, it's time for new tires.

Check the windshield wipers, fluid and defroster

Driving with a wet, snow- or ice-covered windshield invites a crash. Make sure wipers and the defroster are in good working order. Verify that windshield washer fluid reservoirs are filled with no-freeze washer fluid.

Check the engine coolant system

Mix the cooling system antifreeze with an equal portion of water for maximum protection. Have a repair facility check the level of protection with a hydrometer.

Pack a winter emergency car kit

Motorists should be prepared in case they are stranded. A winter emergency car kit should contain a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, general first aid kit, tire chains, blanket, extra set of clothes, non-clumping kitty litter for traction, flares or reflective triangles, cell phone with extra batteries, gallon jug of water, non-perishable food items, window washer solvent, ice scraper, snow brush and shovel.

Jim Abel from AAA Colorado automotive services also advises, "Getting your winter car maintenance completed before the first winter storm can prevent a car from breaking down, but also save you from delays in getting service because auto repair facilities get extremely busy once winter weather officially arrives."

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