Avoiding Winter Breakdowns

Roadside assistance calls to AAA often double, or triple, during winter weather, due to motorists spinning out on slick roads, flat tires, dead batteries and other breakdowns. Last winter, AAA responded to more than 312,000 roadside assistance calls. The most common calls were for tows, batteries and tires.

Stay Ahead of Trouble

Motorists can help avoid winter breakdowns with preventative vehicle maintenance, including:

  • Tires: Adequate pressure and tread depth are essential for stopping and going on ice and snow, but tire pressure can drop during cold weather. Make sure tire pressure matches the sticker on the driver’s side doorjamb and the tread depth is above the wear bar indicators marked on the tires.
  • Battery: The average life of a battery is 3-5 years. Cold weather can drain batteries quickly, and leave drivers stranded. Have a technician inspect the battery at least twice a year.
  • Replace old windshield wipers and solvent: Precipitation and salty spray from the roads often make it hard to see when driving during the winter. Solvent and good windshield wipers can greatly improve visibility.

If you break down or spin out during a winter storm, it may take longer for help to arrive. That’s why it’s important to be patient and pack an emergency roadside kit that includes blankets and extra clothes to stay warm, flashlights and extra batteries, an ice scraper, safety reflectors, a shovel, a first aid kit, a simple tool kit, water and non-perishable food, jumper cables and a mobile phone and charger to call for help.

Safe Winter Driving

Motorists can also avoid spinning out on slick roads by remaining alert and driving for conditions. To stay safe on winter roads, AAA recommends motorists:

  • Slow down: Always adjust your speed to account for less traction when driving on snow or ice. This often means driving below the posted speed limit.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly: Apply the gas slowly to retain traction and avoid skids. Also remember, it takes longer to slow down on slick roads.
  • Increase following distance: Allow five to six seconds of following distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. The extra space will allow you time to stop safely.
  • Never use cruise control: Using cruise control on any slippery (wet, ice, snow, sand) surface can cause your vehicle to lose control more easily.
  • Don’t panic: If you start to slide, hitting the brake is the worst thing to do. Instead, take your feet off the pedals and keep your eyes focused on where you want to go.
  • Leave early: Expect trips to take longer in bad weather.

By taking a few preventative measures and adjusting your driving practices to fit weather conditions, you can stay safer on the road this winter.