Oct 04, 2020

AAA: October is Car Care Month; idle engines need extra attention

Posted Oct 04, 2020 11:33 PM
Photo courtesy AAA
Photo courtesy AAA

WICHITA – October is Car Care Month and AAA Kansas is advising drivers to give their vehicles some extra attention this year.

As a result of earlier COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, an increase of people working from home and virtual learning, motorists are logging far fewer miles and vehicles are sitting idle for longer periods of time. October is the perfect time to ensure vehicles are road-ready for the winter ahead.

During the summer of 2020 AAA Kansas emergency roadside rescue crews responded to nearly 5,000 calls for battery service, an increase of 5.4% compared to the summer of 2019 as a result of the stay-at-home orders issued in the spring. 

“Proper maintenance can extend the life of your vehicle and help prevent costly repairs,” said Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas spokesman. “Even when your car isn’t being used, the electronic systems still tap the battery, which can affect its performance when you try to start it.”

The time is now to make sure your vehicle is winter ready. The weather is mild, and there is plenty of time to deal with the potentially costly repairs before winter weather sets in.

Be on the lookout for the following battery warning signs:

  1. The starter motor cranks the engine slowly
  2. Battery/Charging warning lamp illuminates on the dashboard
  3. In older models, dim incandescent headlights, particularly when the car is idling, indicate a weak battery.

How to determine the age of your battery:

  1. Look for a sticker-It will tell you the month and year that your battery was made. It can usually be found on the top or the side of the battery. A sticker with “9/16” means the battery was made in September of 2016. (This sticker can sometimes represent the date the battery was sold by a retailer instead of manufacture date. It’s usually within a few months of the batteries production date.)
  2. Look for the date code-This one is harder to find and a little harder to decipher. It’s burned into the plastic of the battery at the factory and can usually be found around or near the rim. 
  3. Reading a date code-The date code will usually start with a letter and a number. The letter refers to the month, e.g., January is A, February is B…etc. (The system skips the letter “I” because it can look like a “1”) The number after the letter refers to the year it was manufactured. A battery with the code “D8” would have been manufactured in April of 2018. 

The average lifespan of a vehicle battery is three to five years, so if your battery falls within that age range, it may be time to consider replacing it.

To ensure your vehicle is properly maintained, AAA Kansas recommends that motorists:

Read the maintenance requirements set by your car’s manufacturer in the owner’s manual. There is no longer a “standard” maintenance schedule for vehicle services – including brake fluid. Each automaker has different requirements, making your owner’s manual the most accurate resource.

Inspect brakes as recommended in your owner’s manual, or sooner if you notice pulsations, pulling, noises while braking or longer stopping distance. Correct minor brake problems promptly. Check your owner’s manual to see if the brake fluid should be changed at a specific interval. If no interval is specified for brake fluid service, AAA suggests flushing the system every two years or anytime the brake system is serviced.

Follow the recommendations of in-vehicle maintenance reminders, as they have the best information to determine maintenance needs for your vehicle because they account for how you actually drive. However, many reminder systems do not specifically cover maintenance operations that need to be performed on a time or mileage basis – such as brake fluid and coolant flushes or timing-belt replacement.

Work with a local repair shop you trust - Every car requires routine maintenance and repair. The best time to find a mechanic or auto repair shop is before you need one. Start by asking friends and family for recommendations of repair shops and mechanics. Visit AAA.com to find nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, take your vehicle to your top candidate shop for routine maintenance. While there, talk with the employees and take a look at the facility and consider the following questions:

●Does the facility have up-to-date equipment?

●Were you offered a written estimate?

●Does the shop offer a nationwide warranty on parts and labor?

●Are customer areas clean, comfortable and well organized?

When having your car serviced, follow the factory recommended maintenance schedule to avoid under- or over-maintaining your vehicle.  Oil changes, tire rotations, changing transmission fluid, and replacing an air filter are the types of routine maintenance recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. The maintenance schedule for these services and more can be found in the vehicle owner’s manual.