AAA: Thanksgiving travelers should have vehicles prepared now

TSP

Next week, nearly 2.6 million Floridians will gas-up their vehicles and hit the holiday road. Unfortunately, thousands of them will face car trouble along the way.

Nationwide, AAA will receive more than 368,000 calls for roadside assistance, this Thanksgiving. More than 25,000 (7 percent) of them will be in Florida. The three most common calls will be from drivers with flat tires, dead batteries and/or lockouts.

“The best way to avoid car trouble this Thanksgiving is to have their vehicle professionally inspected,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA - The Auto Club Group. “Mechanics can ensure the recent cold weather didn’t damage your car battery. They can also ensure your tires, brakes, belts and hoses are all in good shape for your trip.”

Drivers can visit aaa.com/autorepair to find a trusted local repair facility that has been inspected and certified by AAA.  Even if drivers do not have time to see a mechanic, there are a variety of things they can look for, to lower the odds of a holiday breakdown.

AAA offers the following tips:

 Check your tire pressure and tread. Inspect all four tires and the spare (if you have one).

Look for cuts, gouges or sidewall bulges. Check the tire tread by inserting a quarter upside down between the tread. If you can still see the top of George Washington’s head, you need new tires. Check tire pressure before driving. Inflate to the manufacturer’s specifications.

 Listen to and feel the brakes. If you hear a grinding sound or feel a vibration when applying the brakes, get them professionally inspected.

 If a repair or replacement is needed, use the Repair Cost Estimator to help anticipate costs.

 Secure and test the battery.

Have a service professional check your battery to determine the remaining capacity. Ensure the cable connections are clean and tight, and the hardware is secure.

 Top off engine oil and other fluids. Ensure engine oil, coolant and brake transmission, and power steering fluids are all at the correct levels for safe vehicle operation.

 Replace wiper blades and replenish windshield cleaner fluid. If wipers streak or fail to clear the windshield thoroughly, it’s time for new blades.

 Check belts and hoses. Replace belts that are cracked, glazed or frayed. As a general rule, drive belts should be replaced every 60,000 miles. Also radiator hoses should not leak or be worn, brittle, or excessively soft.

 Replenish emergency kit supplies. Kits should include a cell phone charger, car battery booster cables, flashlight and extra batteries, first-aid supplies, drinking water, non-perishable snacks for people and pets, emergency flares or reflectors, rain poncho, basic tool kit, duct tape, gloves and shop rags or paper towels.

  Plan ahead for vehicle service

In the event you should need vehicle maintenance, know ahead of time where to find an auto repair shop and technician you can trust. Use AAA.com/Repair to access AAA’s network of nearly 7,000 Approved Auto Repair facilities. Each shop meets AAA’s service and customer satisfaction standards. AAA members receive auto repair discounts, an extended 24-month/24,000-mile parts and labor warranty, and assistance in resolving repair-related issues.

 More than 55 million Americans plan to travel 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving. Nearly 2.9 million of those are Floridians.

This will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000; second only to 2005. Compared to last year, 1.6 million more Americans (85,258 Floridians) will travel for this year’s holiday.

The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations. Wednesday afternoon is forecast to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking as much at four times longer than normal in major metros.

“Strong economic fundamentals are motivating Americans to travel this Thanksgiving in near-record numbers,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Consumer spending remains strong, thanks to increased wages, disposable income, and household wealth. It also helps that gas prices have remained low during the past month, as Floridians finalized their travel plans.

By the numbers: 2019 Thanksgiving travel forecast

Automobiles

•U.S. – 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving, the most since 2005 and 2.8 percent more than last year.

•Florida – 2.6 million Floridians are forecast to drive, 3 percent more than last year. The second-most since 2005.

Planes

• U.S. – 4.45 million Americans expected to fly. With 4.6 percent growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the Thanksgiving holiday.

• Florida – 210,456 Floridians are forecast to fly; 4.3 percent more than last year.