AAA East Central anticipates aiding approximately 39,000 stranded motorists in the local four-state region during the Christmas and New Year's holiday driving period, today through Jan. 2.
As 84.4 million drivers take to the roads for the holidays, AAA expects to be busy across the country with battery replacements and jump starts, changing tires, extricating vehicles from snow, towing vehicles for repair and more.
"Becoming stranded on the roadway is the last thing on anyone's list," said Steve Popovich, AAA Automotive Services Department managing director.
"Many holiday breakdowns can be avoided with a touch of preventive maintenance."
Dead car batteries will be one of the primary culprits leaving motorists stranded this holiday season. The motor club predicts more than 6,500 members' cars will not start. AAA's Mobile Battery Service offers battery replacement on-location by certified battery technicians.
AAA anticipates changing nearly 6,000 flat tires during the holidays and extricate 2,000 cars stuck in snow or mud. The motor club also expects to retrieve nearly 4,800 sets of keys locked inside cars or perform other locksmith services for members.
AAA projects its roadside problem-solvers will be able to remedy the issues of more than three out of five stranded motorists at the roadside and send them on their way, but nearly 16,000 drivers will experience car trouble that will result in a tow during the holidays.
Drivers can avoid the causes of some roadside breakdowns by keeping their vehicles properly maintained. AAA advises motorists to follow their vehicle manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule and make sure their vehicle is ready for the rigors of year-end holiday driving.
Here are a few things to add to your list before heading out for your holiday drive:
Antifreeze. Check antifreeze annually to ensure it will withstand the winter cold. A 50/50 mixture of coolant and water will protect against freezing.
Windshield wipers and washer fluid. Replace wiper blades if they do not clear the glass in a single swipe without streaking. Where appropriate, consider the use of special winter blades that offer improved performance in snow and ice conditions. Fill the windshield washer reservoir with winter detergent fluid to prevent freeze up.
Tires. Cold weather reduces tire inflation pressure, so check tire pressures frequently and maintain 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.
Battery. Check for a secure fit and clean away any corrosion on the battery and its cable connections. If the battery is out of warranty, it's advisable to have it tested before cold weather hits. If replacement is necessary, have a certified technician help select the proper battery for your vehicle type and local climate. In many areas, AAA members can make an appointment to have a AAA Battery Service technicians visit their home or office to check and replace batteries.
Belts and hoses. Replace accessory drive belts that are cracked, glazed or frayed, as well as coolant hoses that are visibly worn, brittle, bulging or excessively soft. Check for leaks around hose clamps and at the radiator and water pump.
Other important areas to have a certified technician check in preparation for winter include the vehicle's fluid levels, lights, 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.
While preventative measures go a long way toward keeping motorists driving safely on the road, unexpected weather or vehicle problems may still arise and leave them stranded. AAA encourages motorists to update their emergency roadside kit for winter to include a mobile phone and car charger; blankets; a flashlight with extra batteries; a first-aid kit; drinking water; a small shovel; a sack of sand, cat litter or traction mats; windshield scraper and brush; battery booster cables; and emergency flares or reflectors.
Motorists seeking a trustworthy repair shop to help prepare their vehicle for winter driving are encouraged to visit one of AAA's more than 8,000 Approved Auto Repair facilities. AAA's network of approved repair shops is a free public service that enables consumers to identify professional auto shops staffed by certified technicians who are equipped with the proper tools and equipment. Consumers can find Approved Auto Repair facilities online at AAA.com/repair.
Android and iPhone users can download AAA Mobile, AAA's mobile smartphone app that provides selected AAA services for all motorists, such as mapping and gas price comparison, as well as member-exclusive benefits including roadside assistance and discounts. AAA Membership is not required to download and use AAA apps, but is necessary to take advantage of unique member benefits such as roadside assistance. For more information on AAA Mobile, visit AAA.com/Mobile.
AAA East Central is a not-for-profit organization with 82 local offices in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and New York, servicing 2.7 million members.