Cold November days killing car batteries across Maryland


— Historic cold November days, not seen since the mid-1970’s, are not just putting a big chill on the inhabitants of Maryland, but these successive bouts of frigid temperatures are also taking their toll on car batteries across the region.

The motor club reports that the overall number of emergency roadside assistance calls to its call centers rose more than 22 percent Tuesday, compared to year-ago numbers. Territory-wide, AAA Mid-Atlantic responded to 7,296 requests for roadside assistance yesterday, compared to 5,970 such calls on the same day a year ago.

On Tuesday, November 18, the auto club fielded 2,251 calls from motorists plagued by dead batteries across its footprint with 551 of those calls from Maryland motorists. Battery-related issues amounted to 31 percent of Tuesday’s calls with the remaining 37 percent of calls for tows and an additional 18 percent for tire-related issues.

“In frigid weather like this, weak car batteries are typically the first to go on the list of potential car issues related to cold temperatures,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic. “At 32°F, your car’s battery loses 35 percent of its strength. If your battery is more than three years old, it’s worth having your battery checked. If you’ve postponed vehicle maintenance, now is the time to take care of it.”

Warning signs that you are at risk for a battery-related breakdown include the following: hearing a grinding or clicking sound when you turn on the ignition, your vehicle cranks slowly when attempting to start, your headlights dim when idling but brighten when the engine is revved or your battery is more than three years old.

Here are some additional recommendations from AAA to make your car winter ready:

· Get a checkup Give your car a complete once-over, especially if it is older than five years. Make sure all belts are tight and hoses are not leaky. Test all lights.

· Test battery Make sure battery cables are tightly connected and corrosion-free. According to AAA’s Automotive Research Center, at 0°F, a car’s battery loses about 60 percent of its strength and at 32°F it loses 35 percent. During cold temperatures, starting an engine can take up to twice as much current as needed under normal conditions. While three to five years is a typical life span, various internal and environmental conditions impact a battery’s long term health. Periodic inspection, testing, and cleaning are suggested and monitoring the use of accessories and electronic devices when your car is not running can help maximize its longevity.

· Check tires During cold weather, tire inflation pressure decreases 1-2 psi (pounds per square inch) for every 10 degrees of temperature change. Make sure pressure levels match those found in either the owner’s manual or on the driver’s door jamb, and note that pressure levels may be different for front and rear tires. Visually inspect tires for cracks or bulges, and ensure tread depth is adequate.

· Oil and filters Be diligent about checking the oil and filter on a regular basis. Low oil level, as well as dirty oil, can compromise your engine in extreme cold.

· Keep it clean Get your car to the car wash frequently to scrub off de-icing chemicals and salt. Besides eroding your car’s paint, these items can also reduce visibility by clinging to windows and mirrors.

· Pack a bag Don’t leave home without an emergency kit in the trunk with a fully charged cell phone and charger, ice scraper, shovel, jumper cables, flashlight, blanket, drinking water, and a high-protein snack. Kitty litter, sand or salt will help with traction if your vehicle becomes stuck.

Motorists seeking a trustworthy repair shop to help prepare their vehicle for winter driving are encouraged to visit one of AAA’s more than 8,000 Approved Auto Repair facilities or visit a AAA Car Care Center. These facilities must meet and maintain high professional standards for customer service, technician training, tools, equipment, warranties and cleanliness.

In addition, AAA Mid-Atlantic offers battery replacement service through its roadside assistance operations and at select Approved Auto Repair (AAR) facilities throughout the region. To request service call 1-800-AAA-HELP or for a battery price quote visit