Summertime is travel time!

Make sure your vehicle is ready before you hit the road. Your car may need a little more TLC, and we’re here to help. Here are some recommendations from our car care experts:

Visit your Approved Auto Repair Facility

A complete bumper-to-bumper check by an AAR facility is a great first step. Our AAR program is a great member benefit! We take the guesswork out of finding a trusted technician for your vehicle. Fully vetted, inspected annually, and subject to specific certifications and standards, you can trust an AAR facility in your neighborhood.

Learn more and find a shop near you.

AAA's car doctor, John Paul.

Focus on Five

These are the five key areas you should regularly focus on, according to AAA’s Car Doctor, John Paul.

  • Check air pressure, which changes dramatically based on temperature.

  • Use a tire pressure gauge for accurate results. The recommended tire pressure is indicated on the placard on the inside driver’s door. (Don’t use the pressure imprinted on the tire itself.) 

  • Low tread depth is dangerous; make sure you have more then 4/32” of tread on the sides and at the center of each tire. Insert a quarter upside down (Washington’s head first) into the tread. If the tread does not reach the top of his head, it’s time for new tires.

  • Check the sidewalls for cracks and dry rot (which occurs when oils and other chemicals in the tire dry out and ruin the tire). 
  • If your car has been sitting for a while, non-damaging surface rust can appear on brakes. It usually wears off in the first few miles driven.

  • Cars that sit for longer periods (months or more) can develop more extensive issues. Have the rotors, calipers and pads checked before heading out. 

  • Steering, suspension, shocks and wheel alignment should also be examined.
  • Check the battery, charging and starting system, especially if the battery is more than three years old. If you’re not sure how old the battery is, get it tested.

  • Clean the battery. Cables can develop corrosion over time and even a good battery can discharge from lack of use. Clean any corrosion off the battery terminals (baking soda and water applied with a toothbrush will do the trick) and get a battery test to make sure the battery will remain fully charged during normal driving. 

  • Members can request a battery test from AAA Car Battery Service.
  • Engine oil should be changed based on time or mileage. You may have driven considerably less in the past year, but if your oil change was more than six months ago, you should get one done. Contaminates, fuel and sludge can get into engine oil, as well as moisture, which leads to oil breakdown. Clean oil extends the life of your vehicle, so don’t skip this important step.

  • The oil change should also be accompanied by a check of other vital fluids — power steering, transmission and brake fluid. Just like engine oil, these fluids can attract moisture and become contaminated. 
  • The cabin and engine filters can become clogged with dirt, dust and pollen, especially if sitting for longer periods of time. If your vehicle has been parked outside for a while, they can become especially dirty.

  • Hoses and belts can dry out and crack — better to find this out before you hit the highway on a long drive.

  • Don’t be surprised to find that some critter has taken up residence in your vehicle to avoid the cold. (This is especially true if you keep snacks in your glove compartment!) Rodents and mice build nests in all sorts of areas, and your engine and filters are prime spots. These animals often chew wires and hoses, so check for damage while the hood is up.

Basic Car Care

An analysis of AAA roadside calls found that millions of roadside breakdowns can be avoided with basic vehicle maintenance. Despite that fact, almost 35% of Americans have skipped or delayed maintenance or service that was recommended.

John Paul, AAA’s Car Doctor, suggests a few key ways to give your car the longest life possible:

While this is likely one of the least-read books ever written, it provides all the info you need to maintain your vehicle — both to keep it running properly and to maintain the warranty.
Build a relationship with a technician, so you know what to expect for service and charges, and also to feel comfortable with how they treat your vehicle. Over the long haul, a reputable repair shop will save you time and money. AAA members can find a local Approved Auto Repair facility at and save 10% on labor charges (up to $50).
Properly washing your vehicle on a regular basis has many benefits: it prevents exterior damage, enhances the vehicle’s resale value and makes driving safer. In spring, it’s important to remove the salt, sand and ice-melting chemicals used to clear roads. A good wash – including the undercarriage – will help prevent these substances from causing rust and corrosion. In addition, the Northeast has its share of acid rain, so washing your car will help preserve the paint finish. Bird droppings contain acid as well, which can damage your paint.

Have a car care question? Ask AAA’s Car Doctor, John Paul

Submit your own question and the Car Doctor will send you a personal response!
John Paul, AAA's Car Doctor, leaning against a red car.
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