Thanksgiving travel: How to prepare your vehicle for a road trip

With many people traveling this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA Texas is sharing some tips on how to prepare your vehicle for the road trip ahead.

AAA Texas estimates they will rescue about 17,000 motorists throughout the upcoming holiday weekend as travel volume is projected to rebound to almost pre-pandemic levels.

AAA Texas says the following tips can help an unexpected issue on the road not spell the end of your holiday trip.

How to Prepare Your Vehicle for a Road Trip in Colder Weather

AAA Texas advises drivers to make a good "BET" to stay on the road by having a vehicle’s Battery, Engine and Tires checked before embarking on a Thanksgiving road trip.


Automotive batteries typically last between three and five years, with reduced battery life in hotter climates. 

To avoid an unexpected battery failure, drivers should have their vehicle’s battery tested when it reaches three years of age and on an annual basis thereafter, as well as:

  • Make sure your battery is securely mounted to minimize vibration
  • Clean any corrosive buildup from battery terminals and cable clamps
  • Ensure clamps are tight enough that they will not move.


Cooling systems protect engines from overheating and should be flushed periodically, as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

Between flushes, drivers are advised to make sure coolant is filled to the proper level by checking the overflow reservoir. If necessary, top off the reservoir with a 50/50 mix of water and the coolant type specified by the vehicle manufacturer. 

To avoid serious burns, drivers should never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot due to the boiling coolant under pressure.

Rubber cooling system components are susceptible to heat-related deterioration, so drivers should periodically inspect hoses and drive belts for cracking, soft spots or other signs of poor condition.


Just as driving on under-inflated tires is dangerous, over-inflated tires can cause uneven wear, reduce vehicle handling and make tires susceptible to road hazard damage. Drivers should check tire pressure often as tires lose pressure naturally (typically 1–3 psi per month) because a tire’s sidewall is permeable.

Low tire pressure results in poor handling and braking, reduced gas mileage and excessive wear. So be sure to check your car’s tire pressure at least once a month—especially before a long trip.

Drivers should also check the tread depth as a tire’s ability to stop within a safe distance becomes compromised when its tread depth reaches 4/32 inch. An easy way to determine if a tire is worn out is to place an upside-down quarter (not a penny) in a tire tread. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, it’s time to replace the tire.

As a tire ages, its rubber becomes hard and brittle, losing elasticity and strength. Therefore, the older a tire, the higher the risk for failure. The age of your tire can be found by checking the last four DOT numbers stamped on a tire’s sidewall; for example, 0419 means the tire was manufactured in the fourth week of 2019. AAA Texas recommends replacing any tire that’s six years old or older.

Have an Emergency Roadside Kit Prepared

AAA recommends having an emergency kit in your vehicle and provides this list of things to include and tips on where to stow them: 

  • Cell phone and car charger (glove compartment)
  • First-aid kit (glove compartment)
  • Blanket (luggage area)
  • Drinking water/snacks for everyone in the car including pets (some in glove compartment, the rest in the luggage area)
  • Flashlight with extra fresh batteries
  • Rags, paper towels or pre-moistened wipes
  • Basic set of tools along with duct tape and car emergency warning devices such as road flares or reflectors (luggage area)
  • Ice scraper/snow brush (if traveling to an area experiencing winter conditions)
  • Jumper cables/jump pack
  • Traction aid such as sand, salt or non-clumping cat litter
  • Tarp, raincoat and gloves

Drivers should take care to replenish any depleted items as needed.

If Your Vehicle Breaks Down

Since surroundings, traffic patterns and vehicle hazards can vary, AAA Texas says it is important to evaluate your specific situation and react accordingly. The following steps are a good starting place:

  • Note your vehicle’s location. If you encounter a problem while driving, make sure you are aware of your surroundings and general location. Know where you are in relation to a major exit or cross street and look for well-lit areas. If you are on an interstate highway, note the mile marker, last exit number or nearest rest area.
  • Assess the problem. While driving, be aware of and know how to respond to warning signs such as steering problems, unusual noises or steam or smoke coming from under the hood. If it’s a flat tire or you run out of gas, try not to panic. Signal, slow down gradually and carefully pull onto the shoulder of the road, avoiding any sudden maneuvers.
  • Pull off the road. On most roads, you should exit onto the far-right shoulder, as far off the road as possible while remaining on level ground. If you are driving on an interstate or multiple-lane highway with medians, you may consider the left shoulder, again pulling as far away from traffic as possible. If you exit the vehicle, never stand behind or directly in front of it to help avoid injuries if your car is struck by another vehicle.
  • What if you cannot pull off the road? If your vehicle loses power and is inoperable, switch on safety/emergency flashers. Do not risk personal injury by attempting to push it to a safe location. If you cannot get your vehicle away from traffic, or if you are uncertain about your safety and think your vehicle may get struck from behind, get out of the vehicle and move away from the road to a safer location.
  • Alert other drivers. Make sure your vehicle is visible to other drivers, remembering that they may be traveling at a high rate of speed. Turn on the emergency flashers, especially at night or during inclement weather.
  • Raise your vehicle’s hood. If you have a brightly colored handkerchief or scarf, tie it to the antenna or door handle, or hold it in place by closing it in a window. Place flares or warning triangles behind your car to direct oncoming traffic away from the vehicle. If you are experiencing a fuel leak or smell fuel fumes, do not ignite a flare or use anything that produces a spark or flame.
  • Communicate your situation. Once you and any passengers are in a safe location, notify others of your vehicle breakdown. Make note of surroundings and landmarks, buildings or road signs. If you have a cell phone, immediately use it to call for help. Make the call from inside your vehicle if you are safely out of traffic. Otherwise, do so at a safe distance from the vehicle and roadway.
  • Remain with your vehicle. Safety experts agree that under most circumstances if you are able to pull away from traffic, it is safest to remain in your vehicle until a law enforcement officer or road service provider arrives.
  • What if I need help? If requesting assistance from a passerby or other motorist, ask for identification including name, phone number and address before accepting assistance. Write this information down and leave it with another person, or in the vehicle, explaining where you are going, when you expect to return and what you hope to accomplish.
  • If you choose to exit the vehicle, do so safely and well away from oncoming traffic and your vehicle. If possible, you and any passengers should exit through the side of the vehicle facing away from the road.
  • If you choose to stay inside your vehicle, keep the windows almost closed and the doors locked. It’s very dangerous to lower your windows or open your vehicle doors to strangers. If a stranger does stop to offer help, ask the person to call for emergency road service.

Expect busy days at ABIA through Thanksgiving travel season
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Thanksgiving travel: Best and worst times to go to airport, hit the road
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