DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – AAA automobile experts are encouraging community members to get their cars checked ahead of the winter season.

Troy Cox, district director for AAA Club Alliance, said because many Americans are driving less as result of the pandemic, many of them have also put off getting routine maintenance on their vehicles.

“We have an acronym we use, we call it BET,” said Cox. “You want to ‘BET’ on your vehicle. So you want to have the battery checked, you want to have the engine compartment checked and you want to have the tires checked.”

For people who have been using their vehicles significantly less than normal, Cox likens driving the car in the approaching winter months to running a marathon. He said if the vehicle has not been maintained during the warmer months, driving it in the cold could present some dangerous situations, especially for people planning to travel over the holidays.

“What you’re going to do is you’re going to work up to that marathon, so you’re going to do short jogs…a car is kind of the same thing. When a car’s been sitting over time, you have rubber elements, you have brake pads, you have rotors. Anything that is metal on your car that is not sealed is open to the elements,” he said. “So they’re going to get layers of rust or oxidation on them. So the best thing to do would be to take it on a few short drives first before you actually take it on a five-hour trip to go see grandma and grandpa.”

Cox said doing an adequate check of the vehicle involves topping off fluids, checking leaks and hoses that may have dried out or burst, and checking your car’s tire pressure. Checking the tire tread, he added, is also critical, as it is essential to stopping a moving vehicle in snow and icy conditions. Cox said trusted mechanics will be able to use advanced metrics to determine if tires are appropriate for winter. He said drivers can also use a coin to check their tire tread, saying that if drivers put a penny between the tread and Abraham Lincoln’s head is fully visible, it’s time to get new tires.

For young drivers who may not know how to respond in the case of a breakdown, he said education plays a role in preparedness as well.

“If you’re a young driver, I think the parents need to get with them and say, ‘If this were to happen, here is step one, two and three. You call AAA, you wait inside if it’s inclement weather, if it’s good weather, a lot of people say that you should get outside of the car and get away from the car in case you are to be hit.”

Most importantly, Cox said the best time to start getting your vehicle ready for winter is now – before shops become too crowded and weather conditions become too dangerous to drive in.

“We’re at the end of October,” said Cox. We’re getting ready to move into November, and I’m sure that the holiday season is going to start a little bit earlier this year than it has in previous years because of COVID. More people are working from home where they can work [virtually], so they’re going to be on the road traveling sooner — that’s my thought. But the other thing I would say is, you need to prepare for a little [extra] time. Like every industry…we’re more inundated with work because we’re struggling to get workers. So compared to where it used to be, ‘Hey I’ll drop my car off early in the morning and I’ll pick it up at night,’ it may be a two or three day wait.”

And with production of new cars slowed due to supply chain issues and people keeping cars longer to save money, Cox said now is not the time to ignore obvious signs that your vehicle may need attention.

“Your car is not made to make noises,” he said. “Your car is not made to squeal or make bumps. That’s your car very kindly telling you that something is wrong. So as much as when I was younger…I liked to play my music loud…sometimes it’s good to ride in your vehicle and just listen. Your three biggest investments are your house, your education and your car. So the car is one of those things where that investment is probably never going to go away. You still have to invest in that car periodically to keep it like new.”