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AAA Hosts Free Car Check

A free car inspection might take some of the sting out of this winter’s weather.

Driver Augie Arnstein of Annandale said his wife heard about the free car care check by AAA technicians, so he said "Why not come by? Anything you can do to keep the car in good shape, especially if it's free, sounds like a good idea."

Driver Augie Arnstein of Annandale said his wife heard about the free car care check by AAA technicians, so he said "Why not come by? Anything you can do to keep the car in good shape, especially if it's free, sounds like a good idea." Photo by Andrea Worker

Meteorologists look to the weather phenomenon La Nina for their winter predictions this year. AAA Mid-Atlantic Field Operations Manager Jeff Boone remembers something from The Farmer’s Almanac about the abundance of acorns and wooly bear caterpillars foreshadowing rough weather ahead. Computer models or natural signs, Boone and the weather folks are in agreement. The winter of 2012 could be another extra cold and stormy one for our region. To help us avoid that nightmare scenario of the roadside breakdown in below freezing temperatures, the auto club hosted a 40-point car check-up free to members and non-members alike on Wednesday, Oct. 10, at their Fairfax Car Care Insurance and Travel Center and auto repair location. “Based on our records, we are estimating about 330,000 service calls between Virginia, Maryland and the district from November to February,” said Boone. “Some of those emergencies can be avoided if you do a little maintenance now. If you find out what’s going on with your car.”

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The AAA Team at work during the free 40-point car care inspection event. Ben Perricone checks how well the battery is charging, while John Lanier waits for his turn under the hood.

THE EVENT officially began at 3 p.m., but by that time, several cars had already been and gone, having been tended to by the expert team brought in from AAA locations throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. The checklist included the inspection of tire pressure and tread, air filters, coolant levels, drive belts, hoses, brakes and battery cables, terminals and charging systems. AAA Territory Manager Ben Perricone couldn’t stress that battery check enough. Scanning the read out from a battery diagnostic device that looked like it had been lifted from the Star Trek prop room, Perricone turned to the owner of the vehicle he was inspecting. “So, this battery is what? At least three years old?” he asked the car’s owner. “More like four,” was the answer. “Well, it’s testing ok for average weather,” responded Perricone. “If it has to do a lot of cold cranking, there’s no telling. Any battery over five years is living on borrowed time. That battery doesn’t owe you anything anymore.”

Many of the calls for roadside assistance during the winter come from drivers whose cars have left the road in bad conditions. “Tire tread,” was Jeff Boone’s comment. “And tire pressure.” As the temperature drops, so will tire pressure—about one PSI for every 10 degrees. “Keep checking the pressure and keep them filled according to the manual or the sticker usually on the driver’s side door jamb,” Boone instructed. “And check the tread. If the tread is too worn, they fill with the road grit, the snow, whatever, and they can’t get traction. You’ll get no control on the road.”

THE MORE THAN 25 DRIVERS who took advantage of this safety inspection had the experts conduct their check-ups, but they also drove away with a simple checklist and a little hands-on instruction on how to check for many of these potential problems themselves. Don’t worry if you couldn’t make it to the event. You can make an appointment for the same inspection at a participating AAA approved auto repair shop by visiting www.aaa.com/carcareevents. Here’s hoping that the acorns, the wooly bears and La Nina are all wrong. But it they’re not, getting that free car inspection might take some of the sting out of this winter’s weather.