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Cold weather car trouble: Motorists may experience battery problems this weekend


Fri, Jan 29th 2021 10:25 am

By AAA of Western and Central New York

We are experiencing frigid temperatures, and parts of Western and Central New York will dip into single digits this weekend as cold weather grips the area. AAA is preparing for call volume to increase as temperatures drop.

Motorists who need assistance should request road service via the free AAA mobile app or AAA.com to avoid waiting on hold amid high call volume over the telephone.

Extremely cold temperatures in the forecast will cause many car batteries to fail. Driving your car is the best way to maintain its charge. Motorists should keep this in mind over weekend, and they shouldn’t wait until the last minute to make sure their vehicle car starts.

Did you know that a car battery loses a third of its power in freezing temperatures? Why? Because as the air outside cools, the oil in the car thickens making it harder to turn the engine over.

Motorists should be aware of signs that show a car's battery is nearing the end of its life. Here are some things to look out for:

√ Vehicle cranks slowly when trying to start

√ Grinding, clicking or buzzing when the ignition is turned on

√ Vehicle has stalled

√ Headlights dim when idling, but brighten when the driver revs the engine

√ Battery is more than 3 years old

To avoid being stranded due to a battery problem, have the battery inspected at every oil change to make sure the cable connections are clean and tight, and the hold down hardware is secure. Once a battery reaches 3 years of age, have it tested annually. The test will identify if the battery has deteriorated to the point where replacement is recommended to prevent an unexpected failure. In most areas, members can use AAA mobile battery service to have a battery tested and replaced (if necessary) at their home or work.

If you haven’t done so already, prepare your vehicle for the cold weather:

√ Carry an emergency kit equipped for winter weather. The kit should include a cellphone charger, sand or kitty litter, a small shovel, flashlight, an ice scraper, jumper cables, a blanket, gloves or mittens and snacks and water.

√ Replace worn windshield-wiper blades. If your climate is especially harsh, purchase one-piece, beam-type or rubber-clad “winter” blades to fight snow and ice buildup. Use cold-weather windshield washer solvent and carry an ice scraper.

√ Inspect your tires. Make sure tires have adequate tread depth – at least 4/32” – as worn tires can affect a driver’s ability to stop in slick conditions. An easy way to check for wear is by inserting a quarter into your tread groove. If the top of Washington's head is exposed, the tread depth is less than 4/32" and it’s time to replace your tires. Also, check that your car has a spare tire and keep it properly inflated in case you need it.

√ Have your battery tested. A AAA survey found two-thirds of American drivers have never proactively had their car battery tested. If a battery is more than 3 years old, have it checked by a professional to ensure it is strong enough to endure cold weather. AAA’s mobile battery service offers free battery testing for AAA members.

√ Wash and wax your vehicle on warm winter days. To help prevent rust damage, which costs drivers approximately $3 billion every year, thoroughly wash and clean your vehicle prior to the start of winter and apply a coat of wax to protect the finish. During the winter, frequently wash your vehicle (including the undercarriage) to loosen, dissolve and neutralize road salts. Always use a high-quality car wash solution, not a household dish detergent that will strip the wax from your vehicle.

AAA’s tips for driving in winter weather:

√ Do not tailgate. Normal following distances of three to four seconds on dry pavement should be extended to a minimum of five to six seconds when driving on slippery surfaces. The extra time will provide additional braking room should a sudden stop become necessary.

√ Never use cruise control on slippery roads. If your vehicle hydroplanes or skids, you will lose the ability to regain some traction simply by lifting off the accelerator. It will be harder to recover from the loss of traction if cruise control is active.

√ Slow down and adjust your speed to the road conditions. Leave yourself ample room to stop. Accelerate, turn and brake as gradually and smoothly as you can.

√ Don’t slam on the brakes. If your car begins to skid, continue to steer in the direction you want the car to go. Slamming on the brakes will only make your vehicle harder to control.

√ Use extreme caution on bridges and overpasses. Black ice typically forms first in shaded areas of the roadway and on bridges and overpasses that freeze first and melt last. Although the road leading up to a bridge may be fine, the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.

√ React quickly. Watch the traffic ahead and slow down immediately at the sight of brake lights, skidding cars or emergency flashers.

As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 887,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.

•The suggestions printed in this press release are from AAA, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or beliefs of Niagara Frontier Publications. Please consult your medical professional before embarking upon any cold-weather physical activities.

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