Winter is coming: AA Rescue gears up & warns drivers to prepare their vehicles

“Your battery could let you down but your tyres might get you killed.”

AA Rescue is planning for a surge in car breakdowns in the coming weeks as winter arrives. This means an increase in hazardous weather conditions, a lot less daylight, and unfortunately for motorists a higher risk of having their car break down. AA Rescue is urging motorists to do a little preventative care now.

Battery faults are very common in winter because of the way that low temperatures affect them and because of increased demands on a car’s electrics. But wet or icy roads and more hours of darkness mean that in an emergency worn or damaged tyres can be lethal. Research carried out by the Road Safety Authority earlier this year found that defective tyres are a contributory factor in 9% of fatal road traffic incidents.

“A quarter of all breakdowns are electrical and batteries cause more AA call outs than anything else.” Says Director of Consumer Affairs Conor Faughnan. “But tyres are even more important and unfortunately in Ireland we tend to neglect them. We would urge all drivers to take a few minutes to check that the tyres have a good amount of tread left on them, with no cuts or damage, and are properly inflated. Worn tyres should be replaced.”

In its 2016 Annual Cost of Motoring report the AA calculated the annual cost of oil, tyres, repairs, replacements and servicing of a family car at over €1,000 per year. Unplanned breakdowns or unexpected repairs invariably cost more, are often more time consuming than a regular service, and come when you least want them to.

“We gear up for this in AA Rescue because we know that the breakdowns are coming.” Says Director of Consumer Affairs Conor Faughnan. “We will have extra resources out and we’ll have stocks of batteries but if your car is due a service then now is the time to get it done.” says Faughnan. 

The AA is also warning of the dangers posed by the large number of cars with defective lights on Irish roads. A particular scourge are the ‘one-eyed monsters,’ or cars with one functioning headlight that are if anything even more dangerous than cars with no lighting at all. Cars with one defective headlight may appear like a motorbike to oncoming traffic with tragic results.

Defective vehicle lights put motorists at greater risk of collision in the event of a breakdown. Meanwhile, defective brake lights reduces the amount of time motorists travelling behind have to react in the event of an emergency stop.

“This is very common in Ireland an in fact the worse a counties roads the more likely they are to have defective headlights, according to research we have done in the past.” Says Faughnan. “Banging and shaking over potholes can cause bulbs to fail over time but these must be fixed straight away.”

While the AA is warning about winter now, motorists are also encouraged to make car maintenance a year round habit.

(Click here to find mechanics, garages and motoring services in Tipperary)

The AA’s top tips to ensure your car is winter-ready:

  • Change your battery: Batteries generally should be replaced every five years – ensuring these are replaced before it reaches its life expectancy could save a great deal of inconvenience and time at the side of the road. If your car is struggling to start it’s usually a sign that the battery is weak. That will certainly catch you out when weather is colder as batteries have to work harder in low temperatures
  • Check your tyres: While the minimum legal requirement for tyre thread depth is 1.6mm in Ireland, AA Rescue recommends replacing your tyre when the thread depth falls below 3mm.  It also advises drivers to pay particular attention to their tyre pressure as cold weather can cause it to drop.
  • Check your lights:  See and be seen, keep your indicators and headlamps clean and working.
  • Replace your wiper blades: The average set of wipers blades should last about a year, so if yours is due an upgrade, now is a good time to have them replaced.
  • Clean your windscreen: The glow of winter’s low sun can be dazzling and dangerous to drive in when your windscreen is smeared and dirty.  So make sure to give your windscreen a good clean inside and out.  It’s also good to use proper washer fluid rather than just water as it won’t freeze when temperatures drop.
  • Prepare an in-car safety kit to ensure you’re equipped for all winter driving conditions. This should include a: de-icer and scraper, shovel, demisting cloth, jump leads, torch, necessary medication, warning triangle, AA Membership card, sand/ salt or other traction aid, and so on.

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