Nation’s largest motor club offers ways to avoid holiday season breakdowns

Hamilton, NJ - AAA anticipates it will come to the rescue of more than 1.4 million stranded motorists nationally during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday peak driving period. Locally, AAA Mid-Atlantic will come to the rescue of more than 6,800 stranded motorists a day, throughout its service territory in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

From highways to mall parking lots, AAA expects to be busy across the country during the holidays with battery replacements and jump starts, changing tires, extricating vehicles from snow, towing vehicles for repair and more.

“Whether on your way to grandma’s house or the mall for last-minute shopping, car trouble can quickly dampen your holiday spirit,” said Tracy E. Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “AAA expects to come to the rescue of more than 1.4 million stranded motorists around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, but many of those breakdowns can be avoided with a touch of preventive maintenance.”

Nearly a third of a million dead car batteries, half million tows expected

Dead car batteries will be one of the primary culprits leaving motorists stranded this holiday season. The motor club predicts nearly 320,000 members will suffer a dead battery during the year-end holidays with AAA Mobile Battery Service replacing more than 90,000 car batteries on-location.

AAA anticipates it will change nearly 175,000 flat tires during the holidays and extricate 60,000 cars stuck in snow or mud. The motor club also expects to retrieve nearly 200,000 sets of keys locked inside cars or perform other locksmith services for members.

While AAA’s roadside problem-solvers will be able to remedy more than two out of three motorists’ car problems and get them back on the go, nearly a half million drivers will experience significant car trouble that will result in a tow during the holidays.

Easy ways to avoid holiday car trouble

Thousands of holiday drivers can avoid time-consuming car trouble by taking a short break from the holiday bustle to check a few key items on their vehicles. AAA recommends that drivers make sure their car is up-to-date on manufacturer recommended maintenance and inspect these key components:

  • Antifreeze. Check antifreeze annually to ensure it will withstand the winter cold. A 50/50 mixture of coolant and water will protect against freezing.

  • Tires. Cold weather reduces tire inflation pressures. Check tire pressures frequently and maintain them at the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure found on the driver’s door jamb—NOT the pressure stamped on the tire sidewall. Motorists should never reduce tire pressure in an attempt to increase traction on snow and ice. This does not work, and when the roads dry out it can cause excessive tire wear and vehicle handling problems.

When checking tire pressure, inspect the tire for uneven wear, bulges or other damage, and check the tread depth at multiple points across each tire to make sure there is enough for safe driving. Tread depth is easily checked by placing a quarter upside down in the tread groove. If the tread does not reach the top of Washington’s head, then it’s time to put new tires on your holiday wish list.

  • Battery. Check for secure connections and clean away any corrosion on the battery and its clamps. If the battery is out of warranty, it’s advisable to have it tested as cold weather puts an added load on the battery. If replacement is necessary, keep in mind that not all batteries are the same. Have a certified technician help select the proper battery for the vehicle type and the local climate. In many areas, AAA members can make an appointment to have a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician visit their home or office to check and replace batteries as needed.

  • Belts and hoses. Check belts for cracks, glazing or fraying on both sides of the belt. Also, look for hoses that are visibly worn, brittle, bulging or excessively soft. Check for leaks around hose clamps and at the radiator and water pump. If any questionable items are spotted, take the car to a certified technician to have them repaired before it they lead to more costly problems.

  • Other important areas to check include a car’s fluid levels, lights, and windshield wipers/ washers. If there are any signs of trouble, it also is advisable to have a certified technician inspect a car’s brakes, exhaust system, and heater/defroster. Throughout the winter driving season, motorists should continue to have regular services, including oil and filter changes, performed at the intervals recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.