TOWSON, MD (January 29, 2019) – While last week’s cold snap took a significant toll on vehicles, Old Man Winter is packing another one-two punch for the region that is expected to be much worse. A wintry mix of precipitation this afternoon and evening is expected to snarl the evening commute, followed by the return of a polar vortex. With this surge of arctic air expected to bring the coldest temperatures in years to most of the region, beginning Wednesday and continuing through Saturday, AAA Mid-Atlantic is gearing up to assist stranded drivers.
“Single-digit temperatures and negative wind chills mean drivers are more likely to experience dead car batteries or tire pressure issues as the temperature drops, which is why our AAA roadside assistance fleet is preparing for the expected surge in call volume in the coming days,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Today is the day to prepare your vehicle. If possible, motorists should have their car battery tested ahead of the plunging temperatures; this could bring peace of mind as there are still two months of winter ahead. At zero degrees, a car’s battery loses about 60 percent of its strength, yet the engine needs about twice as much power to start. The average car battery lasts 3-5 years and a battery’s life can be drained faster if devices are plugged into cars (cell phone chargers, upgraded audio and GPS devices).
AAA Car Care, Insurance and Travel Centers throughout Maryland offer complimentary car battery checks for all motorists regardless of AAA membership. Motorists can see firsthand whether their car battery is strong enough to withstand the bitter cold. Visit AAA.com/Locations to find a nearby AAA Car Care Center.
- AAA Mid-Atlantic also recommends checking tire pressure frequently because tires lose air when air temperatures are cold.
- Proper cold weather tire pressure can be found in the vehicle manual or on a sticker inside the driver’s door, not on the tire itself.
“Warming up’ Your Car
While the extreme cold weather may tempt motorists to idle their vehicle or “warm it up,” this is a waste of time and gas, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. If a vehicle is idling for ten minutes a day, on average, during the three winter months, a driver is simply increasing the wear and tear on the vehicle by eleven additional hours. A driver is also wasting roughly 5.5 gallons of gasoline on average.
If there is a need to warm up a car, the auto club says the best way is to start the engine and allow it to idle for 15 to 30 seconds, while the driver fastens the seat belt and checks the mirrors. A little longer idle time may be appropriate if there is a need to clear snow and ice from the windshield and other parts of the car.
Maryland drivers need to keep in mind that it is against the law to leave a car unattended with the engine running. The practice also increases a driver’s risk of vehicle theft.
Winter Emergency Kit
Motorists are advised to prepare a winter emergency kit to stow in the trunk of their vehicle to have immediately available should the need arise. More than 40 percent of motorists do not carry an emergency kit in their vehicle, cautions AAA Mid-Atlantic.
- Emergency kit items to include – de-icer, shovel, ice scraper, warning flare or reflector triangle, flashlight with fresh batteries, first aid kit, jumper cables and sand or kitty litter (for traction).
- Pack a blanket, extra gloves and heavy but light-colored jacket, scarf or hat (so you can be seen if you have to get out of your vehicle) – if you’re stuck on the road for an extended period of time you’ll need to stay warm, especially if your vehicle is not running.
- Be sure to have snacks and beverages for passengers and pets who may be traveling with you.
Motorists should also have a cell phone with an external charger, and AAA members should travel with their membership card or have their membership number handy when calling for roadside assistance.
“It will be all hands on deck at AAA so that we may respond to stranded motorists as quickly and safely as possible,” Averella said. Last week’s cold snap made Monday and Tuesday busy days for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Monday we saw requests for emergency roadside service climb to the highest level so far in 2019 with our roadside assistance volume exceeding 2,600 calls in Maryland,” Averella said.
Nearly 50 percent of AAA’s call volume from those two days was for dead car batteries, 118 percent higher than the same two days in 2018. For additional battery care info click here.
AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to over 59 million members nationwide and more than 975,000 members in Maryland. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit AAA.com.
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