Before packing your car for Thanksgiving holiday, here’s what you need to know

AAA offers tips to stay safe while traveling by car

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With nearly 49.3 million Americans, including 2.6 million Floridians, hitting the road this Thanksgiving, according to AAA, you will have a lot of extra company while traveling to your destination.

So before you pack your car for the holiday, there are a few things you should know to stay safe while traveling. AAA offered the following tips:

  • Check your tire pressure and tread. Inspect all four tires and the spare (if you have one). Look for cuts, gouges or sidewall bulges. Check the tire tread by inserting a quarter upside down between the tread. If you can still see the top of George Washington’s head, you need new tires. Check tire pressure before driving. Inflate to the manufacturer’s specifications.

“Check your tire pressure. The extreme drop in our temperatures, especially in the last week, can cause a pressure drop in your tires. So check the PSI,” AAA representative Laura Holmquist told News4Jax.

  • Listen to and feel the brakes. If you hear a grinding sound or feel a vibration when applying the brakes, get them professionally inspected. If a repair or replacement is needed, use the AAA’s Repair Cost Estimator to help anticipate costs.
  • Secure and test the battery. Have a service professional check your battery to determine the remaining capacity. Ensure the cable connections are clean and tight, and the hardware is secure.
  • Top off engine oil and other fluids. Ensure engine oil, coolant and brake transmission, and power steering fluids are all at the correct levels for safe vehicle operation.
  • Replace wiper blades and replenish windshield cleaner fluid. If wipers streak or fail to clear the windshield thoroughly, it’s time for new blades.
  • Check belts and hoses. Replace belts that are cracked, glazed or frayed. As a general rule, drive belts should be replaced every 60,000 miles. Also, radiator hoses should not leak or be worn, brittle, or excessively soft.
  • Replenish emergency kit supplies. Kits should include a cellphone charger, car battery booster cables, flashlight and extra batteries, first-aid supplies, drinking water, nonperishable snacks for people and pets, emergency flares or reflectors, rain poncho, basic tool kit, duct tape, gloves and shop rags or paper towels.

“Check your battery. Have them check the connections, alternators, the belt. You want to make sure that there’s no debris that could cause a problem,” Holmquist said. “And plan your route. That’s the most important.”

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Wednesday will be the busiest travel day for the holiday week, according to AAA. The agency reports the top three calls it will get during this time are drivers with flat tires, dead batteries and/or lockouts.

So ultimately, according to AAA, the best way to stay safe on the roads is to plan ahead, including looking up the weather forecast and alternate routes.

“We never know where there’s going to be traffic on the roads. We never know where there’s going to be an accident," Holmquist said. "If there is an accident and you have to get off of (Interstate) 95 or (Interstate) 75 or (Interstate) 10, know that there’s an alternate. That’s where planning ahead and mapping out is the best way.”

Additionally, drivers should limit distracted driving, try to take a break every 200 miles and, of course, have safe travels.

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