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If your car breaks down, it's reassuring to know that our patrols repair most cars at the roadside. But what are the tools of the trade that enable them to do this? Here we detail the equipment we use to provide a full roadside assistance service.
Our patrols have continual training to make sure they stay up to date with the latest cars and their potential problems. And each patrol has almost 10 years' service, on average.
But they couldn't do the job without the van – it's an office and workshop rolled into one; packed with the latest tools, equipment and information required to make sure that we continue to repair around 8 out of 10 of your broken-down vehicles at the roadside.
If your vehicle can't be fixed there and then, we can easily whisk it away for further diagnosis or repair thanks to the van's Vehicle Recovery System (VRS). This trailer folds out from the back of the van in under three minutes, so the patrol can recover your car quickly and safely.
Gone are the days when everything a patrol needed could be carried in a Minivan or Ford Escort. These days our roadside ambassadors use a mix of Renault Traffic, Vauxhall Vivaro and Ford Transit vans.
The Cab is also an office
We've recently introduced a number of specialist breakdown vehicles too. AA Fuel Assist, Battery Assist, Key Assist and AA Autowindshields vans are operating across most of the country and motorcycle repair vans operate around the London area.
But here's the lowdown on what's in the standard vehicle used by most AA breakdown patrols.
The cab also acts as an office. Patrols carry a wealth of paperwork, including membership, feedback and job report forms. You can also see a multifunction display, laptop computer (AADIS) in tablet mode, toll sensors and roof or dash mounted electrical control panel.
AADIS docked in the cab
When the computer is docked into its dash mount, it becomes the patrol's route guidance unit (sat nav). This helps to ensure our fleet can locate and reach you as quickly as possible. Routes are calculated automatically as soon as details of a new breakdown job are received.
There's also a mobile data terminal displaying detailed information about every breakdown job, the member and their contact details.
Switch unit for lights
These windscreen-mounted sensors allow instant passage through toll gates, booths and bridges around the country, without the need to find loose change.
Mounted in the dash or roof panel, this switch unit controls most of the lights plus the non-standard and electrically powered equipment on the vehicle including:
Tools and spares inside the van
The centre section of the van is stacked full of spare parts and tools – all the spanners, screwdrivers and other equipment you'd expect to find in a car mechanic's workshop, together with a collection of specialist tools. Everything's designed with our patrols' health and safety in mind too.
The trolley jack used to raise a car at the roadside is stowed in a carrier that prevents it moving when the patrol's driving. The carrier swings out and hinges downwards so that the heavy duty jack can be lowered to the ground without undue strain on the patrol's back.
Our patrols carry a wide range of spares including:
Some of the specialist tools we carry
Our patrols can fix most broken-down vehicles at the roadside, partly thanks to the specialist tools and equipment they carry.
The standard kit carried by every patrol includes a locking wheel-nut removal tool so that road wheels can be removed even when the adapter has been lost or damaged, and a tyre inflator/compressor used together with 'slime' sealant to make a temporary repair to simple punctures where a spare is not available.
Other specialist kit includes:
Other specialist tools and equipment carried by AA breakdown patrols include:
VRS is a stowaway recovery trailer
The VRS unit is a stowaway recovery trailer that holds the two front or rear wheels of a vehicle. It can be deployed ready for a car to be loaded by one person in less than three minutes.
The winch at the centre-rear of the van is used to load and unload the broken down vehicle, so the patrol can tow your car to a garage. This same winch is used to lower the VRS unit to the ground.
(Updated August 2011)