For travelers planning to drive over Thanksgiving, here’s one thing to put at the top of your to-do list: making sure your car is ready for a long trip.

Skipping that task could mean waiting a while on the side of the road before help comes.

Ellen Edmonds, a spokesperson for the motor club AAA, says her organization expects to respond to “about 400,000” calls for roadside assistance over the course of the next week.

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To make sure you’re not one of those callers, she recommends getting a full vehicle inspection (available at car dealerships, auto parts stores like Pep Boys, as well as gas stations in states that require annual inspections) before you go — ideally by Monday — so you have time to address any issues before you hit the road.

But if you can’t get a formal inspection, here’s a priority list of things drivers can do to ensure a safe trip.

She says that BET is an acronym for Battery, Engine, Tires, and she ticks off three important systems.  


“Make sure that your battery is well secured, that it’s clean and the terminals don’t have any corrosion on them,” Edmonds says. We recommend that you have your battery checked if it is older than three years. The battery’s lifespan will depend on the location where you live. According to her, batteries do not last as well in humid and warm climates.


Save the lights for the Christmas tree. Make sure none are lit up on your dashboard. If any area, you can have an auto parts store check to see what the exact problem is.

“Make sure you have no warning lights (on your dashboard) and that there’s nothing leaking under the car like antifreeze,” she advises.

To have your engine light illuminated while your car is still in your home, bring it to your local dealer.  If it happens while you’re on the road, Google the closest dealership for that brand or auto parts store.

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“I recommend at least 4/32 tread,” Edmonds says, referring to how thick a tread you need on your tire.

It’s best to place a quarter upside-down into the tread. Once George Washington’s head isn’t below the tread, then it’s time to change tires.

Properly inflating your tires is key to getting maximum mileage from your gas. Gas prices have risen seven years ago.   On the inside of the door jamb, you can locate the right setting for your tire on the driver’s side.

You should be aware that your tire pressure light may go off if there are major changes in the temperature. Weather is most likely to be the reason why your tire pressure light turns off after just a few miles. You should check for leaks if the light stays on.

Edmonds advises that you check your tire pressure on the weekends and once again before you go to leave in order to be sure there is no leakage. 

A clean windshield is not only important for driver visibility; it's also necessary for many driver assistance tools like radar-cruise control and lane-keep assist to function.

Other suggestions from Edmonds:

Clean your windshield before you start. “A clean windshield is important for a number of reasons,” she says. A dirty windshield can make it difficult to see if you are driving in the sun. Plus, if your car has tech like adaptive cruise control or lane-keeping assistance, those functions rely on a camera housed behind the windshield. It won’t function if it doesn’t see and will keep you awake at night with warnings. 

Take a good look at your windshield wipers – front and back.  “Make sure they’re clearing the rain with little to no streaking or noise, and that they’re not cracked or brittle,” she says. To find the right type for your vehicle, look at your model number on the manufacturer’s site or refer to the manual in the aisle of the auto parts shop.  Don’t forget to put the ice-scraper in your car for winter.

You can top it off. “Make sure you have plenty of windshield wiper fluid because if you’re driving over several different states, you may run into different types of weather,” Edmonds says.

And if your car has a habit of using oil (looking at you, 2013 and 2014 Subaru Foresters) top it off before you leave and bring another quart, funnel and rag with you just in case the oil light comes on. 

Verify whether you are covered for roadside assistance Do not wait until the worst possible moment to discover that your roadside assistance coverage has lapsed. You can check your status before you panic.

Your manufacturer might offer coverage if your vehicle is less than three years old. You might be eligible if you hold a credit card for travel. Check the website of each issuer to see if there are any fees. For a monthly nominal fee, add this to your car insurance plan if none of the above applies.

If you decide to take the AAA route, there may be a 2-3-day waiting period before your policy becomes effective. To ensure you have the right coverage, if your plan is to drive on Wednesday, make sure to sign up for it by Monday.

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Always have an emergency kit on hand. Be prepared to take a bag with blankets, coats and water. Edmonds recommends using triangular caution signs rather than flares, which can break down and become ineffective. 

Gasoline is essential.  Don’t let your tank drop below a quarter-full, Edmonds advises. You should research charging points for electric cars.

Remember that COVID still exists.  So pack masks for everyone in the car just in case and consider bringing along plastic bags to use as gloves when pumping gas. AAA also offers a guidebook that will help you understand the restrictions in place for each state.

Edmonds suggests that touch-free credit card scanners be used instead of inserting the card. Both for hygiene reasons and to protect identity-theft,  You might also want to keep a duplicate of your vaccination certificate on your smartphone.

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Your dog deserves the best. Rather than let your dog roam around the car, consider picking up a harness-and-seat-belt combo that clips into one of the seatbelts. You can rest assured that your dog will not be left behind in case of an unfortunate accident. So that your dog can be easily leashed when they need to stretch, keep their leash in their side pocket. Another reminder: Make sure to have bags with you to help clean up after your dog.

But what happens if this doesn’t happen before your Thanksgiving trip?

Edmonds advises, “Then it is necessary to complete it before Christmas.”



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