Winter 2010 Breakdown Updates


15:00 Thursday 2 December

Breakdown workload so far today has been lower than yesterday as overnight snow in many areas has seen many people stay at home.

The AA has attended around 10,500 breakdowns across the UK so far today with calls currently coming in at 1,150 every hour. By the same time yesterday, the AA had attended around 11,300 call-outs.

We expect to attend a total of around 16,000 call-outs nationally today.

The current busiest areas are the south coast of England: Bournemouth, Southampton, Portsmouth through to Sussex and Kent. London, especially the southern half, has remained bad, as has the East Midlands, Yorkshire, Lancashire and North-east England.

Darron Burness, Head of AA Special Operations, says: "The overnight snow has caused problems for those who have ventured out but this evening's commute could be even more hazardous as things ice over."

Although your car thermometer might show the air temperature as above freezing, the ground takes a lot longer to thaw out, so ice will remain the biggest risk facing drivers over the next few days, especially on minor roads. Keep your speed down and if it's slippery, maintain a ten-second gap between you and the vehicle in front.

As the thaw continues, localised flooding could be a risk in areas that have had a lot of snow.

As well as keeping the essential winter kit in their boot, the AA also recommends that drivers keep their fuel tank at least half full in these conditions. If stuck, leaving the engine running will help keep you warm and the battery charged up. An average car uses around three-quarters of a litre of fuel an hour idling.

AA Land Rovers had rescued 484 vehicles stuck in snow by 21:30 last night – including a snowplough.

Trains, Planes and Automobiles Grind to a Halt

Following major problems on both road and rail with drivers and passengers stranded overnight in sub-zero temperatures the AA has raised severe concerns over the lack of resilience in the UK's transport infrastructure.

We need better plans to prevent people continuing to join motorways once they are gridlocked. We can not afford to have vulnerable people stuck on a road to nowhere or waiting for ghost trains that never arrive.

Read more »

15:00 Wednesday 1 December

Widespread ice has caused major problems across the country during the night and this morning. The AA has attended around 11,300 breakdowns across the UK so far today with calls peaking at around 2,500 every hour this morning.

The A57 near Sheffield - more than 100 vehicles stuck as lorries struggled for traction The current busiest areas are London, especially south London, Kent, Yorkshire, North-east England, and Aberdeen.

Darron Burness, Head of AA Special Operations, says: "We've seen the worst ice so far this winter, which has been a big problem across most of the country. Many of the areas where we were operating were gridlocked after snow washed away the salt, turning them into ice rinks.

"It's a vicious circle as if the roads get blocked, the gritters can't get through, and so it only takes one vehicle to get stuck for the situation to quickly snowball."

Last night on the A57 near Sheffield, several lorries were struggling for traction on the ice and, in no time, more than 100 vehicles were stuck.

One of the AA Land Rovers was called to the scene and pulled 30-tonne-plus articulated lorries clear using a special kinetic rope – basically a big bungee cord – as used by the Army for pulling tanks out of mud!

You don't have to be going very far to get caught up in the snow, so whether you're popping to the shops or travelling further afield, keep the essential winter kit in your boot and make sure the fuel tank is at least half full.

Don't forget to carry extra stuff if you have a baby or small children in the car. Babies in wet nappies and hungry, bored children can be quite a distraction when you're struggling to get home.

Frozen fuel

Diesel cars may struggle this evening too, as more extremely low overnight temperatures are forecast, particularly for central Scotland.

Wax crystals – which block fuel lines and filters – can start to form in diesel fuel at around minus fifteen. If you can, park your car in a garage or out of any exposed area to protect it from the worst of the cold.


11:00 Wednesday 1 December

This has been the worse morning so far for icy roads.

The AA has dealt with 7,000 breakdowns so far this morning with calls currently coming in at a rate of 2,500 per hour.

The busiest areas of the country this morning are London - particularly South London, Kent, Yorkshire and the North East.

AA Land Rovers were busy overnight on the A57 around Rotherham helping to mobilise a number of articulated lorries that had got into difficulties.

AA breakdown Patrol Nick Evers gives winter driving advice in the video podcast below.

17:00 Tuesday 30 November

As at 17:00, the AA has attended around 14,000 breakdowns with calls coming in at around 1,000 every hour. The busiest area is London with the M25 (junctions 2-5) a particular hotspot due to falling snow freezing on the carriageways.

AA land Rovers are operating in the most seriously affected areas The AA expects to attend up to 18,000 breakdowns today, which would bring the total to more than 100,000 call-outs since last Thursday (25 November). On a normal Tuesday in November, the AA would typically attend around 10,500 breakdowns for the whole day.

12:30 Tuesday 30 November

Yesterday (Monday) was the AA's busiest November day on record and one of the busiest days in the association's 105-year history with close to 25,000 call-outs.

Although some people in the worst-affected areas have stayed at home, workload remains very high in the northern half of the country, especially Scotland and North-east England.

As at 12:30, the AA has attended more than 6,500 breakdowns today with calls currently coming in at around 1,600 every hour.

The AA expects to attend up to 18,000 breakdowns today, which would bring the total to more than 100,000 call-outs since last Thursday (25 November).

On a normal Tuesday in November, the AA would typically attend around 10,500 breakdowns for the whole day.

Last night, two AA patrols in a Land Rover helped with the rescue effort when 60 cars got stuck for several hours in Louth, Lincolnshire. They then helped with a stricken tanker in the area. This morning, the same AA crew were kept busy when at least eleven vehicles, including an ambulance with patient on board and articulated lorry, got stuck on the A157 in rural Lincolnshire.

Paul Leather, AA patrol of the year, says: "Scotland and northern England remain very busy and snow is causing problems in other areas. We're expecting things to get even busier this evening when roads turn more treacherous with ice. If local conditions are particularly bad, heed the police advice about whether or not to travel – they don't give out that advice lightly.

"If you are driving on icy roads, try to minimise the use of brakes to reduce the risk of sliding – keep your speed down, stay in a higher gear to aid traction, anticipate hazards, and keep well apart from other vehicles."

If cars have been left sitting unused during the cold snap, the AA recommends that owners periodically clear the snow off them. This prevents ice building up, which is much harder to clear, and reduces the risk of frozen door locks and door seals.

The overnight temperatures are so low that car doors can freeze shut – try all of them and if you can get in via any one, it's normally easier to open the others by pushing from the inside than by pulling on the outside handle.

Smearing a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the door seals can help prevent doors from freezing shut.

A squirt of a water dispersant such as WD40 into door locks, including the fuel cap lock, will reduce the risk of a frozen lock.


17:30 Monday 29 November

The AA is now on course to have one of its busiest days in its 105-year history with the number of call-outs likely to get close to the all-time record set on 4 January this year when we attended more than 25,000 breakdowns.

As at 17:30, the AA had received just under 20,000 calls for assistance with calls currently coming in at more than 1,200 every hour. On a normal Monday in November, the AA would typically attend around 10,500 call-outs for the whole day.

Paul Leather, AA patrol of the year, says: "We're busy all over the country, not just in those areas with snow. In these very cold temperatures, a car battery might only work at 50% of its capacity, which means it really struggles to cope with the bigger load it's under.

"Give the battery a chance by switching off all the electrics – lights, blowers, automatic wipers, heated seats and rear windscreen, radio etc. – before you start the car. It also helps to dip the clutch as you turn the ignition as it takes load off the starter motor and, ultimately, the battery."


12:30 Monday 29 November

Over the weekend, most people had the choice about whether or not to venture out but this morning, people needed to get to work, so had to brave the conditions. The extremely cold overnight temperatures are a killer for car batteries and icy roads have caused many problems.

As well as causing lots of additional breakdowns, many drivers have simply struggled on the ice and snow to get from home to the gritted main road.

By 12:30, the AA had received around 12,400 calls for assistance with calls currently coming in at more than 2,100 every hour.

On a normal Monday in November, the AA would typically attend around 10,500 call-outs for the whole day.

This follows a very busy weekend with AA patrols attending more than 30,000 breakdowns over the two days.

  • Exceptionally busy morning by November standards due to the severe overnight temperatures and icy roads in many areas
  • 12,400 calls for assistance and breakdowns by 12:30
  • Calls coming in at around 2,100 every hour - down from a peak of around 2,700 every hour during the morning rush-hour (would normally be around 1,000/hour)
  • Very busy across whole of UK, especially the northern half of the country and Wales
  • Large increase in home start call-outs (mostly flat batteries)
  • Over the weekend, the AA attended more than 30,000 breakdowns with the busiest areas seeing breakdown workload more than double

AA patrols in the North-east have reported a handful of motorists venturing out without even a warm jacket.

It's only too easy to view your car as a large overcoat but if you do get stuck or break down, you often need to get out of your car to a position of safety. So, at the very least, take plenty of warm layers with you, as well as a fully-charged mobile to call for assistance.

16:30 Friday 26 November

Nationally the AA has attended around 12,000 breakdowns so far today and we now expect to exceed 16,000 for the day.

Wales and the North-east are currently the busiest areas for breakdowns.

With the evening rush hour still to come, breakdown calls are coming in at 1,220/hour.

Winter driving advice »

Traffic News »


12:30 Friday 26 November

The AA has had a very busy morning with many cars failing to get off the driveway – mostly the result of a flat battey.

Cold weather affects the chemical performance of batteries, so they really take a pounding during this weather. We all jump into our cars and turn on the lights, air-con, blowers, heated windscreen, radio etc, which places a big drain on the battery. If your journey to work is relatively short or if you only make stop-start journeys, it doesn't give the battery time to recover.

If your car is giving you problems starting, get it checked out, as if the battery is more than five years old, it may need replacing.

We're geared up for a busy Monday morning as many cars will be left unused over the weekend in freezing temperatures.

AA patrol of the year Paul Leather says: "Although there was less snow last night, black ice has been causing problems, as it's almost impossible to spot and things go wrong very quickly on it. Keep your speed down and, where possible, stick to the main roads that have been gritted – it may be that you have to override your sat-nav to do this.

"Also, make sure you carry the winter essentials in your car – at the very least, a fully-charged mobile, warm and waterproof clothing and blankets."

  • Today has been busier than yesterday with around 8,000 breakdowns attended nationally by 12:30. We expect to deal with more than 15,000 breakdowns by end of the day (compared to 9,500 normally)
  • Breakdown calls peaked at 1,840/hour during the morning rush-hour (would normally be around 800/hour)
  • It is still generally busy across the whole of the UK but particular hotspots are still Aberdeenshire, Newcastle area and North Yorkshire, which have seen a 70% increase in workload


09:30 Friday 26 November

It has been a very busy morning for breakdowns as the cold weather extends its grip across the country with low overnight temperatures and ice causing many problems for drivers.

Nationally the AA has attended around 3,500 breakdowns so far this morning.

  • The busiest areas this morning are Aberdeenshire, Newcastle area and North Yorkshire, which have seen more than a 70% increase in workload
  • There has been a further large increase in home start call-outs, mostly for flat batteries
  • Breakdown calls are coming in at around 1,600 every hour - compared with a normal rate of around 800/hour and a rate of 1,400/hour at the same time yesterday
  • Friday is normally the quietest weekday for traffic and breakdowns but the AA expects a busy afternoon and evening commute as temperatures drop again with ice the biggest risk
  • Yesterday (Thursday), the AA attended around 14,000 breakdowns nationally, up from around 9,500 on a normal Thursday in November


15:00 Thursday 25 November

The AA has attended around 9,100 breakdowns so far today.

  • Breakdown calls peaked at 1,400 per hour this morning and are currently coming in at more than 1,000 every hour. We expect this to increase during the evening rush-hour.
  • We expect to have attended more than 14,000 breakdowns by the end of today.
  • The busiest areas currently are Aberdeen, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and North Yorkshire – these areas have seen a 60-70% increase in breakdown volumes.
  • Although not all of the above areas have had snow, the cold weather has generally caused problems with lots of home start call-outs to flat batteries.
  • We are concerned that black ice could become a problem this evening and tomorrow morning as ground temperatures remain low.
  • The AA has Land Rovers working in the worst affected areas


Paul Leather, AA patrol of the year, says: "Our concern for this evening and tomorrow morning is black ice – the snow will have thawed a bit during the day and could prove treacherous as people head home.

"If possible, people should stick to the gritted main roads and keep their speed down. In case of any problems, at the very least, carry plenty of warm clothing and a fully-charged mobile phone."


09:30 Thursday 25 November

The AA dealt with 12,000 breakdowns on Wednesday – a 26% increase on the normal workload of around 9,500 on a Wednesday in November.

The busiest areas were Aberdeenshire and around Newcastle where we saw a more than 50% increase in workload.

  • AA patrols have dealt with around 3,000 breakdowns so far nationally this morning
  • The morning surge in breakdowns started an hour earlier today – around 7am rather than 8am with an increase in home start call-outs, mostly for flat batteries
  • Breakdown calls are currently coming in at around 1,400 every hour
  • The busiest areas are still Aberdeenshire, the east coast of Scotland, Newcastle, Tyneside, Wearside and down to Hull
  • AA 'snow busting' Land Rovers are operating in the North East of England


Wednesday 24 November

The AA is urging drivers to take extra care, especially on untreated higher ground, over the coming days as wintry weather hits northern and eastern areas of the UK.

With Arctic weather forecast to sweep many regions, the AA has already rescued a handful of cars stuck in snow in the Aberdeenshire and Moray areas today as snow hits northern Scotland.

Callouts are also up significantly in North Yorkshire and Newcastle. By 2:30pm , the AA had attended around 7,500 breakdowns nationwide, with calls coming in at about 1,000 every hour.

The UK's biggest breakdown organisation says callouts could increase by half in worst-hit areas. As well as having extra patrols on duty, the AA has 'snow-busting' Land Rovers on standby and its patrol vans all have snow chains to help get through to members.

AA breakdown Patrol of the Year Paul Leather says: "It is important to check local weather and traffic conditions before setting off. Drive according to the conditions and, if they are particularly bad, don't travel. Even in areas where there is no snow, extra care is essential as icy conditions are possible on many roads.

"You should also carry an emergency kit in your car. As well as a fully-charged mobile, this should include de-icers, ice-scrapers, spare warm and waterproof clothing and blankets – so you're not caught out if conditions change suddenly."

Driving safely in the cold snap

Tips from AA Driving School

  • Drive only as fast as conditions allow, and remember that stopping distances are up to ten times longer in ice and snow
  • Gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving in heavy snow. Use all the car's controls – accelerator, brakes, clutch and steering – as gently and progressively as possible
  • Wear comfortable, dry shoes: cumbersome, snow-covered boots will slip on the pedals
  • Keep to main roads as they are more likely to be gritted and will be patrolled by police
  • Clear snow from the roof as well as from windows. Snow piled up on the roof can fall onto the windscreen obscuring your view and can also be a hazard to other road users. You could be fined and receive three penalty points if the police consider your car a danger to other road users

more winter driving advice »


21 December 2010