Cold winter weather taking its toll on cars in Carolinas

Published 4:50 pm Wednesday, January 6, 2010

According to AAA Carolinas, more Carolina motorists are waking up to car troubles as temperatures dipped below freezing.

We received 45 percent more calls Monday related to battery trouble compared with the past four Mondays, said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. The drop in temperatures and winter conditions makes this a very busy time for road service.

It is expected that heavy demand for jump-starts will continue for the next several days due to predictions of sub-freezing temperatures overnight and in the morning rush hours.

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Batteries require more cranking amps in colder weather, reducing their charge and ability to crank an engine. Cranking is the hardest work a battery does and in 25 degree temperatures or lower, cranking power can be reduced as much as 35 percent.

AAA Carolinas, with 1.8 million members, responded to 1226 calls from battery issues Monday, with the preponderance of calls occurring in the urban areas, such as Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Columbia and Greenville.&bsp; Naturally, these are areas of high density, but motorists in cities also tend to be less prepared for low temperatures than those in the mountains or rural areas.

Areas with conditions of ice and snow have seen an increase in extrications. AAA recommends staying off the roads when possible in the extreme winter weather predicted for later this week.

Motorists should have their battery checked when they learn of an incoming onslaught of cold weather, said Parsons. A fully charged battery is the best defense against cold weather and vehicle non-starts.

AAA recommends the following precautions during periods of extreme cold.

* Take the time to have your batterys charge and cold cranking amps checked.

* Check your batteries connections for corrosion.&bsp; When starting your car in the morning, turn on electricity first and wait 30 seconds for the battery to warm up before starting.

* Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid freezing gas lines.

* Thinner grades of oil are better for colder weather, opt for 5W-30 over 10W-30.

* Check tire pressure every one to two weeks as low temperatures can reduce tire pressure and will limit control on slick roads.

* Never use wiper blades to clear ice or frost as this damages the blades. Use a scraper or can de-icer.&bsp; Make sure all windows are clear for best visibility.

* Never warm up your car in a closed garage, carbon monoxide poisoning is possible.&bsp; It is also illegal to warm up your car parked on public streets in some counties, when the driver is not in the car.

* Keep an emergency kit in your car.&bsp; Make sure it includes a mobile phone, car charger, blankets, flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, drinking water, a small shovel, a sack of sand or cat litter for traction, windshield scraper, battery booster cables, emergency reflectors, and non-perishable snacks.

An affiliate of the American Automobile Association, AAA Carolinas is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.8 million members with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.