TAMPA, Fla. — Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and millions of people are expected to hit the road with their families for the holiday. With the pandemic stretching for months, experts want your car to be road ready before you head out the door.
“We’re anticipating about 2.6 million Floridians to hit the road, and that’s about 200,000 more than last year,” said Mark Jenkins, a AAA spokesperson. “So going to be some very busy roads, a lot of congestion out there, and our biggest goal is just to make sure that everybody is taking a vehicle that is road trip ready.”
AAA estimates 400,000 drivers will need roadside assistance during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. It said the three most common issues are dead batteries, flat tires and lock outs.
AAA also acknowledged because of the pandemic, some drivers might have neglected their car’s maintenance, explaining something seemingly minor like low tire pressure could turn into a big problem.
“Chances are if you’ve neglected your vehicle’s maintenance that the tires may be underinflated,” said Jenkins. “Underinflated tires are the number one cause for tire blowouts. As you can imagine, the last thing you want to do is go 50 or 60 mph down the highway and have a tire go out on you. That can cause some pretty bad situations.”
Florida Highway Patrol reports in 2020, there were 3,069 tire-related crashes in Florida, involving 184 serious injuries and 61 deaths. AAA says one trick: grab a quarter.
“A good way to check your tire inflation level is with a quarter. You just stick the president’s head into the tread, and if you can still see the top of Washington’s head, your tread is too low. It’s time for a new tire,” said Jenkins.
AAA said the top five items on an auto checklist should include tires, battery, brakes, fluids and wiper blades.
“As long as the car’s been sitting for as long as they have, that sediment is going to be sitting in the bottom of those systems: your brake fluids, your power steering, your coolant, and you want to flush those out,” said Josh Pless, the service manager at AAA Auto Care. “Those could cause you some problems like overheating, power steering pump going out, brake cylinder going out.”
Experts want people to get in for car service as soon as possible before repair shops fill up, and it’s too late.
“A simple inspection could make the difference on whether you spend your Thanksgiving at the dinner table or on the roadside,” said Jenkins.