Millions to hit the road for Thanksgiving holiday

AAMCO technician checks a car battery

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — AAA is expecting millions of travelers on the road and in the air this Thanksgiving as holiday travel increases the most in a single year since 2005.

What You Need To Know

  • Forty-eight million travelers are expected to hit the road this Thanksgiving week
  • It’s the highest single-year increase in travel since 2005, according to AAA
  • Auto technician says to check oil, wiper blades and tire pressure before getting on the road

More than 53 million people will be traveling this week for Thanksgiving. The uptick comes amid lifted and relaxed pandemic restrictions compared to last year. According to AAA, it’s the highest single year increase for travel in a decade and a half.

The 53 million travelers includes an estimated 48 million drivers taking to the country’s highways and interstates.

With all those people on the road, Brad Gregersen, owner of AAMCO Transmissions in Pineville, said there are some items you’ll need to check off your traveling checklist before getting behind the wheel.

Gregersen said before long Thanksgiving drives, you should:

  • Check your tire pressure
  • Check your vehicle’s oil, both transmission and motor 
  • Check windshield wipers for any streaks, flops or scrapes 

“The average American, I’m sad to say, has their check engine light on for nine days before they do something about it. The car’s telling you there’s something wrong, get it checked! Don’t take a 400-mile trip with your check engine light on,” Gregersen said.

Tire pressure can affect your drive in more ways than one. Low tire pressure can cost up to 3% of your vehicle’s gas mileage, and can impact tread grip, which can cause accidents on icy, rainy or snowy roads, according to Gregersen. 

“If your vehicle does 30 miles a gallon, you’re losing one mile for every gallon of fuel,” Gregersen added, “When you’re going over those icy patches, especially up north, you could lose control.” 

Gregersen said thanks to the pandemic, this is not the year to get stuck waiting for auto repairs or parts.

“You don’t want to get stranded in an unfamiliar town. Over the pandemic we are all struggling for skilled technicians. It could be a couple of weeks before a shop can actually get ahold of your vehicle and get it through their shop,” he said. 

Gregersen, who’s owned his shop since February of 2010, said he’s seen too many people stuck in Charlotte during or after the holidays.

“What we do see a lot of is people getting stranded in Charlotte over the Thanksgiving holiday or the Christmas holiday and we having to look after their vehicles. It’s a short workweek, they’re stuck, and usually they wind up spending time and money in Charlotte for a couple weeks that they hadn’t planned on,” he explained.

Besides regular maintenance, he said it is also important to be prepared for any emergency on the road. Gregersen urged anyone traveling by car this Thanksgiving or holiday season to have an emergency kit somewhere in the vehicle.

The kit should include:

  • Gloves
  • A blanket
  • All-weather poncho
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow rope
  • Flashlight with batteries
  • Glow sticks to alert drivers if you are parked on the side of a road
  • Ice scraper and snow brush 
  • First-aid kit 

Gregersen said you can pick up an affordable emergency kit at almost any auto supply store.

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