Severe winter weather can make driving a challenge for even the most experienced drivers, says AAA in a news release. Extreme cold temperatures make vehicles more likely to break down if proper maintenance has not been performed, and heavy snowfalls and icy road conditions can lead to vehicles sliding off the road and becoming stuck in the snow.
AAA predicts that this November and December, more than 100,000 stranded motorists will call its roadside assistance customer service centers for vehicle extrication services. In 2004, AAA responded to 90,463 calls for the same service.
"Performing proper vehicle maintenance and good trip planning could keep you from becoming one of these statistics," says John Nielsen, director of AAA's Approved Auto Repair Program.
"Prevention is key to avoiding vehicle breakdowns, and now is the perfect time to have a certified technician at a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility inspect your vehicle's ignition system, antifreeze, lights, exhaust, heater/defroster, brakes, tires, windshield wipers and washer fluid, as well as change the engine oil and filter," adds Nielsen.
In addition to performing preventive auto maintenance, motorists are also encouraged to carry an emergency roadside kit containing items such as: a mobile phone; blankets/sleeping bags; flashlight with extra batteries; first-aid kit; knife; drinking water; high-calorie non-perishable food; extra clothing; waterproof matches; sack of sand, cat litter, or traction mats; shovel; windshield scraper and brush; tool kit; tow rope; battery booster cables; compass and road maps; and emergency flares or reflectors.
Should a motorist find themselves stranded in the snow with no help in sight, AAA cautions drivers not to needlessly spin the tires as this will only dig the vehicle deeper into the snow. To properly free your vehicle, AAA experts suggest the following:
Clear away as much snow as possible from around the tires, under the vehicle and near the vehicle exhaust pipe.
Improve traction by scattering sand, cat litter or some other abrasive material around the front tires for front-wheel drive cars, and around the rear tires for rear-wheel drive cars. Special traction mats are also available for this purpose, and vehicle floor mats may work in a pinch.
Place the car in low gear (automatic transmissions) or second gear (manual transmissions) and apply gentle pressure to the accelerator. Ease off if the tires begin to spin.
If still unable to free the vehicle, try slowly rocking the car. Ease forward with the car in low gear (automatic transmissions) or second gear (manual transmissions). When the car will no longer go forward, release the accelerator to allow the car to roll back.
When the vehicle stops its backward motion, apply minimum pressure on the accelerator again. Repeat these actions in rapid succession until the vehicle rolls free. CAUTION: do not rock the vehicle for prolonged periods as serious damage to the automatic transmission or clutch may occur.
If others are available to help, have them push to assist the car's rocking motion. People pushing the vehicle should not stand directly behind the wheels because of the risks from flying gravel, sand and ice. Also, they should be aware of their physical limitations. Footing can be hazardous, and overexertion can be especially dangerous in cold weather.
If you are unable to free your vehicle, set up reflectors, flares or other signal devices as soon as possible to alert passing motorists.
Before abandoning your vehicle, carefully assess the weather conditions. In extreme cold or in heavy snow, stay with your car until you can be rescued.
If you stay in your car, tie a bright cloth to your antenna to alert rescuers. If you run the engine for warmth, make sure snow does not block the exhaust pipe, which could cause dangerous fumes to backup inside the car.
If you can leave your vehicle and reach shelter safely, your local AAA auto club for assistance.
In addition to extrication services, 2005 data indicates that this holiday season AAA road service will also tow 2.1 million cars and trucks; provide battery service to 891,426 drivers; change 716,489 flat tires; provide fuel to 73,925 motorists; and assist another 206,177 motorists requiring miscellaneous roadside assistance. AAA also expects that automotive battery-related calls will continue to be the second most common roadside service performed during this time period. As a result, the AAA Mobile Battery Service will replace more than 85,000 batteries, and provide boosts for hundreds of thousands more.