22 September 2005


Jim Rink (313) 336-1513

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), passenger cars are living longer. Over the past three decades, increased durability has pushed the average age of a car from 5.6 years to 9. The longer a vehicle stays in use, however, the more likely its critical components – such as belts, hoses and batteries – will fail under the stress of winter driving conditions.

AAA Michigan says that, to stay healthy, older cars should undergo a routine winter checkup, especially during the month of October when AAA offers its free Winter Car Care inspection at more than 120 AAA-Approved Auto Repair (AAR) facilities statewide.

The Winter Car Care program, now in its 26th year, stresses the importance of preventive maintenance by providing a free check of the vehicle’s battery load and terminals, anti-freeze, oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid and automatic transmission fluids, belts, hoses, tires and wiper blades.

The most common vehicle deficiencies found during a Winter Car Care inspection include weak batteries, worn or damaged wiper blades, clogged air filters, low washer fluid, dirty or low motor oil, and low anti-freeze levels.

In Michigan, faulty batteries and/or faulty terminal connections cause more starting problems than any other factor. Many vehicle batteries fail the load test. Some are improperly connected or corroded at the terminal. That means they are apt to fail sometime during the winter. Cold weather is brutal on a battery’s starting power. As the temperature drops, so does the battery’s cranking power.

“Batteries are always an issue,” said AAA Michigan/Chicago Automotive Services Assistant Vice President Robert Kaczor. “Extremely cold temperatures can test even the most reliable batteries, especially now that many passenger vehicles are required to power DVD players and other electronic devices.”

As part of its Winter Car Care program, AAA Michigan is recommending motorists closely monitor the condition of their vehicle’s battery, especially batteries more than two years old. Although batteries can carry warranties of up to 7 years, a warranty is no guarantee an older battery will continue to perform in cold weather.


The free, annual AAA Winter Car Care inspections not only help prepare vehicles for the rough winter ahead, they also can help improve fuel economy. Among the automotive components tested by technicians are the air filter, tire pressure and tread depth.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing a clogged air filter can improve fuel economy by as much as 10 percent (saving about 18 cents per gallon).

A new air filter also keeps impurities from damaging the inside of your engine. Properly inflated tires with good tread depth can add another 3 percent to the fuel savings tally – about 5 cents per gallon.

Michigan residents can obtain a Winter Car Care inspection at any of the more than 120 AAA Michigan Approved Auto Repair facilities located statewide. AAR facilities are regularly inspected by AAA and meet stringent standards in terms of customer satisfaction, staff qualifications, and scope of services.


New this year to the AAR network is The Suburban Collection of auto repair facilities, located in Ann Arbor, Troy, Farmington Hills, Novi and Waterford. Many of these facilities keep evening hours and offer exclusive discounts for AAA members. The Winter Car Care inspection during October is free to all motorists and includes: Suburban Chevrolet in Ann Arbor; Suburban Acura and Suburban Honda in Farmington Hills; Suburban Chrysler-Jeep and Suburban Infinity in Novi; Suburban Imports, Suburban Olds-Cadillac-Buick, Suburban Toyota and Suburban Volvo in Troy; and Suburban Ford in Waterford.

AAA Michigan recommends its network of Approved Repair facilities to motorists for their automotive maintenance and repair needs.

For a location near you, log on to www.aaa.com and look for the link “Approved Auto Repair.”