Tips to Prevent Your Car Breaking Down This Winter

A few simple tricks to help you avoid being stuck on the side of the road.

November 18, 2010, 2:57 PM

Dec. 6, 2010— -- You and your beloved car have made it through summer. But now as the weather turns cooler, that joyful vehicle might be causing you some trouble.

The holiday season can be stressful enough without having to worry about your car suddenly stopping in the middle of nowhere, miles away from the nearest gas station or rest area.

"Because of the state of the economy, motorists are holding on to their cars longer, therefore, it is imperative for them to take care of their vehicles, especially as winter approaches," said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend. "If it's not winter-ready, it won't ride out the storm or the season."

If you do get stranded by the side of the road, AAA suggests you stay with the car unless in immediate danger."In most cases, it's best to stay with your vehicle until help arrives," said AAA spokeswoman Christie Hyde.

If stranded, tie a bright cloth to your car's antennae and ignite roadside flares to attract assistance. If there is snow outside, make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snowbanks.

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Consumer Reports suggests that drivers be prepared for the worst and offers up the following five tips to assist stranded motorists.

#1: Know Your Exit Plan

Memorize the locations of your car's window switches and door locks. Verify if the front doors can unlock by pulling the handle or pressing an unlock switch. To prevent you car doors from freezing shut, try spraying the doors' rubber seals with a silicone spray lubricant beforehand. You can purchase this product at any auto shop. The water-resistant spray will prevent the ice from locking the doors shut.

#2: Keep Your Car Healthy

Maintain your car's equipment such as tires, exhausts and brakes. Before departing on a long trip, bring your car into any auto service station. Most places offer a winterizing package where your car's oil will be changed, coolant levels checked, windshield wipers replaced and tires examined. Keep your gas tank filled to prevent moisture from freezing the gas lines.

#3: Have An Extra Key

Keep a secret, spare key connected to your car's exterior. Purchase a magnetic holder and attach an extra key. Place the holder hidden underneath your wheel well or car trunk. If the wind shuts the door when you're outside, you can get back in. Make sure the key's location is out of public view and only a few, trustworthy people know about it.

#4: Prepare For A Slumber Party

Make an emergency kit containing warm clothing, blankets, flashlights, roadside flares, water and first aid supplies. When you car stops, put on the warm clothing. It is easier to retain warmth than to regain it. In addition, keep a supply of energy bars. The body produces heat when eating and the warm clothing will trap the heat. If kids are traveling, bring portable video games and handheld DVD players with spare sets of batteries. This will help fight any boredom and restlessness.

#5: Keep Connected Inside

Always carry a cell phone with emergency numbers stored in your phone's contact list. If your cell phone is equipped for a manual phone charger, implement this to avoid draining necessary car power from a cigarette lighter.

The sooner you realize that you're not making it to your destination, you can prepare yourself and your travelers to call your car home for a few hours. Just relax, enjoy the peace and quiet and when conditions improve, take the next step.

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