How To Avoid Holiday Travel Car Breakdowns

December 19, 2010

If you were a decision maker at AAA and had a wish list for Christmas, it would include a lot of experienced and competent help. That’s just what you would need if you planned to get through the next couple of weeks of holiday travel.

Just how big is this job expected to be? Well the motor club--which has 49 million members--expects to be out on the highway assisting 1.4 million of them between December 18 and January 2. About 60 percent of these stranded travelers will be sent on their way from the roadside, but about 500,000 are going to need a tow.

The numbers and some suggested ways to avoid the fate look like this:

320,000 dead batteries: Inspect the battery terminals and remove corrosion, and make sure the clamps holding the cables to the battery are intact and tight. Check the age of the battery--if it’s four years old or older you might consider pre-emptive replacement to eliminate the chance for trouble and to allow yourself the opportunity to shop for the best price.

175,000 flat tires: Take a walk around your vehicle and inspect the condition of your tires. If you have been nursing along a low tire by inflating it more than once, you must resolve that issue before you depart. If any of the wear bars on your tires are visible, a trip to the tire store is on your to-do list. Also check for bubbles, gauges and cracking and any nails or screws that may be embedded in your tire but have not caused the tires to lose air.

60,000 vehicles stuck in ice and snow: If the weather forecast and your itinerary merge at a snow storm, the ante has been raised for the condition of your tires. Now look at them super critically and decide if the remaining tread is sufficient for bad weather. If your car has Electronic Stability Control, read the owner’s manual about how it hampers the car’s ability to get out of ice and snow. Locate the ESC off switch. As for equipment, a small shovel, an ice scraper and an old door mat to place under a wheel that is not gripping may be helpful.

200,000 customers locked out: There is always a first time. Remember that valet key that the car salesman gave you when he closed the deal on your car? Now is the time to resurrect it and keep it separate from your other keys. Maybe a spare set of keys or the extra keyless entry unit should go along for the ride as well.

There is no need to obsess over the negative aspects of holiday travel, as long as you do a little preparation. Sometimes the ride can be the best part of the experience.

[The Auto Channel] 
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