Use This Winter Car Maintenance Checklist Before You Hit The Road

A simple checklist to be sure you arrive safely at your winter destinations.

With the recent snowstorm, you may have a new appreciation for winter car maintenance issues. To be sure you don't miss something important, I turned to AAA of the Carolinas for these tips, and learned a bunch myself.

For example, I didn't know where to locate tire pressure recommendations without the owner's manual.

For some morning zany-ness that only WCCB's Wilson can deliver, watch me, along with Dave Yelverton and Parker Cook from AAA on "Wilson's World" talk about taking safe and fun winter road trips. 

Safe driving!


  • Check tire pressure for all tires AND the spare when they are cold
  • Make sure their pressure levels match those found in either the owner’s manual or on  the driver’s door jamb
  • Note that pressure levels may be different for front and rear tires 
  • To inspect tire tread, place a quarter upside down in the tread grooves on several spots of the tire. If the top of Washington’s head is exposed at any point, it’s time to replace that tire 


  • A fully-charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather
  • Ensure the battery cable connections are tight and the terminals are free from corrosion

Wiper blades and fluid

  • Wiper blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace them if they leave streaks or miss spots
  • Be sure the windshield washer reservoir is filled with a cleaning solution that contains anti-freeze for cold weather use
  • Carry an extra supply of washer fluid in your car

Heating and cooling system

  • Check radiator hoses for leaks, bulges and cracks
  • Make sure your vehicle’s antifreeze reservoir is at the full mark 
  • Have your engine’s coolant checked by a technician to ensure low temperature protection. The last thing in you need is a frozen engine block
  • Check your heater before hitting the road. Does it work?


  • Check levels and change at the interval recommended in your owner’s manual
  • Stick with the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended viscosity
  • Be aware that your vehicle may require different oil for cold weather operation

Emergency road kit

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Flares
  • Jumper cables 
  • Basic repair tools
  • Water and imperishable food 
  • The kit can be compiled at home or purchased at any AAA branch office

Emergency planning

  • Buy a roadside service plan like AAA. Program the contact number into your mobile phone
  • If you are a member of AAA, download the AAA Roadside app on iTunes or the  Android market. Help can be summoned right from the app
  • Leave your travel itinerary and route with someone at home or your destination

Professional inspection

  • Get a safety inspection from a trusted professional. Some things, like battery charge, require special diagnostic tools 
  • Visit a AAA car care center near you to have your vehicle inspected by a trained technician. FREE ($39 value)

Download my 7-page winter road trip guide

My "Winter Road Trips Guide" is chock full of ideas and checklists. Download it here.Download your free guide here

  • How to minimize whining and maximize family time while traveling
  • App Recommendations
  • Money Saving Tips
  • Guide to Healthy Eating on the Road
  • How and What to Pack
  • Entertaining the Kids 
  • Auto Maintenance Checklist

Please share your tips in the comments.