AAA estimates it will come to the rescue of nearly a half million stranded motorists during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend. With 28 million Americans expected to travel by car during the holiday, many travelers could be left stranded away from home this weekend.
“Whether traveling or near home, the best way to avoid your vehicle leaving you stranded is with a little preventative maintenance,” said David Lang, vice president of automotive services for the Automobile Club of Southern California. “Taking care of your vehicle now can not only prevent the hassle of a breakdown, but also can cost far less than a major repair that might be needed if vehicle upkeep is ignored.”
During Memorial Day weekend in 2009, the Auto Club received more than 98,000 calls for assistance in the Southland. The motor club changed 12,868 flat tires and retrieved keys for 16,699 during the 2009 holiday. While the Auto Club was able to get most motorists back on the road, 40,667 required a tow—thousands for reasons that could have been prevented with proper maintenance..
Over the entire summer driving season between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, AAA will rescue an estimated 9.3 million stranded motorists nationwide.
Find problems before they arise
Whether planning a summer road trip or commuting to work, AAA offers two recommendations to motorists to decrease the likelihood of their vehicle leaving them stranded:
- Have your vehicle serviced regularly based on the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. This is the best way to catch problems before they arise.
- Identify a quality repair shop, and use that facility for all of your vehicle repairs and maintenance. Repeated use of a trustworthy shop allows a motorist to develop a good working relationship with the service staff, and allows the repair technicians to get to know the vehicle and make needed service recommendations in a timely manner.
AAA offers a free public service to help consumers find quality auto repair facilities that meet and maintain high professional standards for training, equipment, cleanliness and customer service. Motorists can either look for the AAA Approved Auto Repair sign at local auto repair facilities, or search for a nearby AAA Approved shop online at AAA.com/Repair.
Easy maintenances and checks for motorists
While some maintenance and repair tasks are best left to certified automotive technicians, there are several basic items motorists can easily check themselves between trips to their auto repair facility:
Engine Air Filter – A dirty air filter was the most frequent problem found during AAA car care inspections in 2009. A dirty or clogged air filter restricts airflow and reduces engine performance. A damaged filter, or one that does not seal properly in its housing, will allow unfiltered air to enter the engine. This can lead to increased engine wear and, in some applications, damage to electronic engine control components.
Check the air filter every six months or 7,500 miles by holding it up to a 100-watt light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if the light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.
Windshield Washer Fluid – Low or no windshield wiper fluid was the number two problem AAA found during its car care inspections. Rain, insects, grime and other debris on a windshield will compromise the driver’s vision if the windshield wipers cannot remove them. A supply of the proper washer fluid, delivered effectively to the glass, helps the wipers remove these contaminants.
Check the windshield washer fluid reservoir monthly or more often if the washers are used frequently. Top it up with a solution formulated to aid in the removal of insects and other debris. Be sure to test the washer spray nozzles for proper operation and aim before hitting the road.
Tire Pressure – Over- or under-inflated tires were the number three problem found during AAA car care inspections last year. More than 21 percent of the vehicles checked had one or more tires with incorrect air pressure. Proper inflation will make tires last longer and delay the need to buy new ones. Plus, correct tire pressures will help maximize a vehicle’s fuel economy, while ensuring optimum ride and handling for comfort and safety.
Check and adjust tire pressures at least once a month when the tires are cold—including the spare. Always inflate tires to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended settings—not the maximum pressure molded on the side of the tire. The manufacturer’s recommendations usually can be found on a sticker on the driver’s door jam or in the owner’s manual if the tires are original to the vehicle, but if the tires have been replaced with a different brand, find the recommended tire pressure from the tire manufacturer for that make and model of tire.
Tire Tread – Tires with not enough tread depth were in the top five of AAA’s list of vehicle concerns. Having good tires with sufficient tread depth is crucial, particularly in wet road conditions. Worn tires with shallow tread are much more likely to hydroplane on wet pavement, resulting in a loss of braking power and steering control.
Check the tread depth by inserting a quarter upside down into a tire groove with Washington’s head facing outward. The tread should cover part of Washington’s head. If any of the area above Washington’s head is visible, it’s time to start shopping for new tires. Always check the tread at several points around the tire and across its width, and use the lowest reading.
Uneven or excessive wear of the tire tread may indicate the need for suspension repair or wheel alignment, both of which will extend the life of a vehicle’s tires.
Battery – Battery problems were a frequently seen issue during AAA’s car care inspections. Summer heat breaks down the battery internally and accelerates the rate of corrosion on vehicle’s battery terminals. Both of these conditions can lead to insufficient electrical power being available, and leave a motorist stranded without warning.
Check the battery cables to ensure they are securely attached to the terminals. Clean the terminals if there are any signs of corrosion. It is not enough to simply remove external corrosion; proper cleaning requires disconnecting the cables to clean the areas where their ends contact the battery terminals.
Depending on the local climate and vehicles usage patterns, most car batteries have a three to five year service life. If your battery is nearing the end of its lifecycle, have it tested at a AAA Approved Auto Repair shop or by the AAA Mobile Battery Service to determine if it is time for a replacement.
Windshield Wiper Blades – Also in AAA’s top-10 vehicle problem areas, windshield wipers are easy to overlook until motorists find themselves in a pounding rainstorm. If wiper blades are worn, cracked or rigid with age, they will not adequately remove rain, grime and other debris that can obscure driver vision. If the wiper blades are sufficiently deteriorated, the metal wiper blade frame could contact and permanently damage the windshield.
Check the wiper blades at every oil change or whenever they fail to wipe the glass clean in a single swipe. The life of a rubber insert is typically six to 12 months depending on its exposure to heat, dirt, sunlight, acid rain and ozone. Streaking and chattering are common clues that the rubber is breaking down and replacement is needed.