Breakdowns surge as temperature drops

Patrols rescue motorists in icy conditions

Widespread snow and ice

Patrols have been rescuing motorists stuck in freezing conditions, following a surge in cold weather-related breakdowns at the start of the week.
Members around the UK have experienced flat batteries, frozen door locks, handbrake cables and engine issues.
Widespread frost, ice and some freezing fog patches created poor driving conditions, and the AA's 'snow-busting' Land Rover crews were deployed to help.

Tuesday, 20 January

As at 2.30pm:

  • Around 9,000 breakdowns nationwide so far today
  • Flat batteries, frozen door locks, handbrake cables and engines among other issues
  • AA reminds drivers that salt on roads and pavements is less effective from -5 and barely effective from -9 degrees downwards


So far today (as at 2.30pm), the AA has attended around 9,000 breakdowns nationwide – currently around 1,100 every hour.

Darron Burness, head of the AA's severe weather team, says: “While the cold is something of the 'Grim Reaper' for car batteries, it’s not the only issue caused by freezing temperatures.

"Door seals and locks can freeze solid, handbrake cables may not release, you can blow a fuse if your wipers are stuck to the windscreen and windows can become detached from the mechanism if they freeze to the frames.

"Even engines can be affected. A 'frozen engine' is where the antifreeze has become diluted over time and freezes. When you start the engine, no coolant circulates and the engine can overheat leading to a very large repair bill."

The AA is also reminding drivers and pedestrians to take extra care, even on gritted main roads and pavements, as salt spread on the roads loses its effectiveness in very cold conditions.

Darron Burness adds: "Particularly if you’re out in the dark when the temperatures drop, don’t assume main roads will be fine. The salt on the roads is less effective from minus 5 degrees and barely effective at all from minus 9 degrees."

Monday, 19 January

As at 1pm:

  • Around 10,000 breakdowns nationwide so far today
  • AA rescued 56 vehicles stuck in snow or ice since yesterday
  • A cold and wintry week of weather ahead across many areas
  • Below average temperatures down to -10C in places
  • Risk of widespread frost, ice and some freezing fog patches which will create poor driving conditions
  • 'Snow-busting' AA Land Rover crews deployed


So far today (as at 13:00), the AA has attended around 10,000 breakdowns nationwide – peaking this morning at around 2,000 every hour – and currently the busiest areas are Glasgow and Edinburgh.

As well as affecting the operation of the car, poor driving conditions have seen a number of cars stuck in snow or ice with the AA alone rescuing 56 vehicles since yesterday; and it has deployed its specially-trained Land Rover crews.

Darron Burness, head of the AA's severe weather team, says: "Even the most experienced drivers can be caught out in these icy conditions.

"Some people naively assume that standard road tyres are 'all season' ones for year-round use but they're actually summer tyres and aren’t nearly as effective on snow and ice as a proper winter tyre.

"While it's neither practical nor economic for everyone to have winter tyres, it's therefore important to keep your speed down and leave a much bigger gap between you and the car in front, as stopping distances can increase ten fold on snow and ice.

"You also need to ease off a lot earlier when approaching a junction or roundabout; and, if you see someone up ahead pull out, bear in mind that they could be struggling for grip too, so you need to give them more space."

The AA recommends at least 3mm of tyre tread for better grip in winter (no less than 2mm at other times), compared to the legal minimum of 1.6mm.

Darron Burness adds: "Deeper tread definitely helps but, if you get stuck, don't reduce tyre pressures to get more grip – it doesn't work, and reduces stability."

More information: Winter driving advice


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