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AAA: It's Time to Prepare for Winter Driving

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OKLAHOMA CITY Okla_ This year's winter season is just around the corner. Forecasters say we may have snow in Oklahoma as early as this weekend.

Unfortunately, thousands of vehicles in Oklahoma are in need of preventive maintenance before the weather turns colder.

"Thankfully, most of the things we need to do to winterize our vehicles are easy and cheap. The trick is to get them done before it's too late," said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. "During AAA's Car Care Check-ups, the most frequent problems we find are under-inflated tires, dirty oil, weak batteries and low fluid levels under the hood."

In an effort to help motorists get ready, get set and go during this year's winter driving season, AAA Oklahoma offers the following tips:

Get Ready: Before you drive long distances, check the weather conditions along your route. As a safety precaution, remember to bring a cellular phone and a winter driving kit that includes the following items: a flashlight with fresh batteries, a small snow shovel and brush, traction mats, an ice scraper, booster cables, warm blankets, flares or triangle warning devices, heavy gloves, snacks, window washing solvent, paper towels and a first aid kit.

Get Set: Inspect your vehicle thoroughly before leaving your driveway. Ensure that your tires are properly inflated, fluid levels (including anti-freeze) are full, front and rear lights are operating, and belts and hoses are in good condition.

Keep in mind that one of the most common causes of cold-weather breakdowns is a weak or dead battery. Good indicators that your battery is weak and may need replacement include a starter motor that cranks the engine slowly when the ignition key is turned. If in doubt, have a qualified auto technician check it. The colder it is, the harder it is for your battery to start your car. A good, strong battery is essential.

Go: Now that your vehicle has the green light, here are some winter driving tips to get you to your destination safely.

  • When driving during slippery and icy conditions, slow down and keep a safe distance from other vehicles, minimize brake use and bear in mind that traction is greatest just before the wheels start to spin. Gentle pressure on the accelerator pedal when starting is the best method for retaining traction and avoiding skids.
  • The most effective way to stop on ice and snow is to apply your brakes gently well in advance of the point where you intend to stop. Most of today's vehicles come equipped with an antilock braking system (ABS). If you have never had to slam on the brakes, you may be surprised to feel a vibration or pulsation in the brake pedal when coming to a stop. This means the system is operating as designed to prevent wheel lock up. Continue to apply firm pressure to the brake pedal until your vehicle comes to a complete stop. Do not pump your brakes if your car has ABS.
  • Keep your seatbelts fastened and make certain that all passengers are securely restrained. Keep distractions to a minimum. Stow your phones.
  • When driving in falling snow or fog, lower your speed, use your low-beam headlights or fog lights and keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.

To help avoid gas line freeze up, keep your gas tank at least half full to minimize condensation.

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