After a week of cars lying idle during the Christmas festivities, the RAC predicts that Wednesday 2 January 2013 will be one of the busiest mornings of the year for vehicle breakdowns as millions of motorists return to work.
The RAC is expecting in the region of 10,000 breakdowns – 40% more than a normal January day – as people everywhere begrudgingly force themselves out of the front door to work only to find a car that won’t start.
Hopefully the shorter break this Christmas will mean the situation is not as bad as previous years. On the return to work in January 2011 RAC patrols dealt with 60% more breakdowns than normal, but this was nothing compared to snowy 2010 when they call-outs doubled to more than 14,000.
Second cars are the most vulnerable as they often do not get used over the holiday, making them more susceptible to battery failure which is more often than not the cause of post-Christmas non-start problems.
The RAC predicts the January return-to-work day will be the busiest battery day of the year with more than 3,000 call-outs. In fact, batteries are the single largest cause of breakdowns in the UK, accounting for one in every six call-outs made to the RAC throughout the year, and almost a quarter during some winter months. Last year alone, the RAC attended over 380,000 battery-related call-outs; an average of over 1,000 each day.
RAC technical director David Bizley says: “The majority of breakdowns we attend on the return to work after the Christmas holidays are for vehicles that won’t start. The combination of a long break where vehicles aren’t used much, if at all, and cold damp weather is a recipe for battery trouble. A car’s electrical system has to work a lot harder at this time of year as drivers are more likely to use their lights, heated windows as well as the heater fan. The starter motor also has to work harder to start the engine on these cold mornings making a battery failure more likely.”
The RAC believes much of the car stress of 2 January 2013 can be avoided if motorists take a little time to prepare for a smooth return to work by giving their battery some tender loving care during this festive season.
• Park your vehicle in a garage whenever possible
• Ensure everything is switched off when you end your journey including lights, heater, fan, heated rear windscreen, radio etc. Some sat navs, in-car DVD players and iPods can also drain the battery if left connected – every volt is precious first thing in the morning!
• Check the battery connections ensuring that they are tight and free from any corrosion and don’t forget that battery acid is highly corrosive to skin and paint work.
• Charge batteries if possible – particularly if the vehicle is primarily used for short journeys • Pro-actively get your battery tested, particularly if it is over four years old
• Start your car to ensure everything is working as it should be and allow the engine to reach operating temperatures (staying with the car while it is on)
If your battery does need replacing, the RAC Battery Fitting Service is the answer. Offering free delivery for all, and free fitting for RAC members, the service provides low cost, high quality RAC Exide batteries delivered to your home or work, seven days a week.
David Bizley adds: “It’s also a good idea to fill up with fuel a day or two before you have to go back to work so you avoid the queues at petrol stations. If it’s a few miles away this will also give your battery a little bit of a boost too.
“And even if you have a full tank it’s still worth taking the car for a run a day or so before you need it to go back to work after the holiday, especially if you don’t have a battery charger yourself. However, don’t just start the car and then switch it off because that may do more harm than good. Go for a short run to recharge the battery.”
Here are some general winter checks the RAC recommends carrying out to ensure your vehicle is ready if the temperature drops over the festive period:
• Check oil and coolant levels. Ensure they are topped up correctly. Pay particular attention to the anti-freeze content of the cooling system. Check your owner's handbook for information on the recommended anti freeze or consult your local dealer.
• Fluid levels - Windscreen washer fluid and anti-freeze are more crucial during the winter, so ensure that this is well topped-up before the cold weather arrives. Use a good quality windscreen wash that protects down to at least -35C to prevent the water from freezing. If you don’t your windscreen wipers could be rendered useless in extreme conditions. As at any time of year, checking your oil level regularly is an easy way to reduce your risk of engine problems.
• Lights – Some cars will be driven for much of the summer without using the lights at all, so any problems may go undetected until they are needed. Therefore, a thorough check of all the lights on your car (including indicators, fog lights and full beams) is advised before winter sets in.
• Wiper blades – Check that your windscreen wiper blades are up to the task of dealing with heavy rain or snow before setting off on your journey. Replacing them is cheap and simple and could prove vital in getting you to your destination during poor conditions. One tip to keep your wiper blades in good condition is to never turn your wipers on before removing ice from the windscreen, as this can damage the blades.
• Tyres - Fitting winter tyres to your car will make it much better-equipped to cope with hazardous driving conditions. However, even if you stick with your regular tyres, you must make sure they’re up to scratch. As well as looking for any obvious signs of wear or damage, check the pressure of each tyre regularly and also ensure that the tread depth is at least 3mm. And don’t forget to check the spare as well – if your car has one.
With over seven million customers, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistance, insurance, vehicle inspections and checks, legal services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information – RAC is able to meet drivers’ needs.
RAC is committed to providing the very highest levels of service to its customers and ranked first for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates' UK Roadside Assistance Study 2006 to 2009. RAC was also the top-named breakdown organisation in the July 2009, January 2010, July 2010 and July 2011 half-yearly UK Customer Satisfaction Index from the Institute of Customer Service.
Which? Recommended Breakdown Services Provider September 2011 and RAC Insurance has also been awarded the Best Overall Vehicle Insurance Provider 2010/11 by themoneypages.com.
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