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Tips to keep your car healthy through winter

Saturday - 12/14/2013, 1:37pm  ET

WASHINGTON - The cold weather doesn't bring out the best in your car. At this time of year, AAA receives thousands of calls about flat tires.

During last Sunday's big blast of cold, AAA Mid-Atlantic's Emergency Roadside Assistance switchboard erupted with calls about flat tires, says AAA's John Townsend. "So many accidents associated with tire problems are from underinflated tires," he says.

Hot weather makes your tires inflate; cold weather makes them deflate, which can make driving more dangerous for you and your family. Many cars with tire-pressure sensors will warn you that your tires are low. "Don't ignore," Townsend says. "When it goes off, go right in and get some air for your tires."

But when you drive up to the air pump, let the car rest for 10 minutes before filling your tires and checking the pressure. "You have to wait until the fires are cold to inflate them because (otherwise) you get a false reading," Townsend says.

The heart of your car is also prone to fail during this time of year. "Like a heart attack - that's what's happening, and many batteries are clunking out this week."

The cold is tough on batteries, and when you use your car to charge your smartphone, you drain it even more. "Those devices can drain your batteries; they're like vampires," Townsend says. If your car is three years or older, you may want to get a new one.

He says also says you need to watch your car's temperature gauge so it never overheats. "If it overheats, then you've blown your motor, and that's a two thousand, three thousand-dollar repair bill. Also, you should do this before winter hits, but it is always good practice to get your car a winter check-up."

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