On Tuesday, January 2, as motorists headed out to their vehicles to return to work and school, thousands across the Mid-Atlantic region encountered dead batteries as a result of vehicles sitting idle during what was for many a long holiday break, coupled with artic cold.
On Tuesday, AAA Mid-Atlantic came to the rescue of over 11,000 motorists, nearly double the amount of motorists aided a year prior on January 2. Over 47 percent of calls for service to AAA Mid-Atlantic were for dead batteries. In Maryland, the auto club aided over 3,000 motorists, an 87 percent increase over this date in 2017, with 44 percent of members calling to say their car wouldn’t start.
Today, with the winter weather and many motorists staying home or teleworking, calls for service were significantly lower in the morning but volume has been building as the day continues. As of 4pm, AAA Mid-Atlantic aided 4,000 motorists across its footprint with 1,300 of those motorists in Maryland. Tomorrow, as motorists head back to work and school, AAA Mid-Atlantic anticipates a spike in calls again.
“The many offices, schools and attractions closed today kept many Marylanders at home. However, tomorrow morning, motorists will be back on the roads again, as the work and school routine returns for many residents,” commented Ragina Cooper Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Motorists are advised to get their car road ready today so they avoid the potential for an unpleasant surprise tomorrow morning when they head out and start their engine.”
As temperatures are expected to continue to stay below freezing through Sunday, AAA Mid-Atlantic offers this advice on how to keep your car up and running during this cold snap:
- Park your car in the garage. If you do not have a garage, put a tarp over the hood or park protected from prevailing winds.
- To keep doors from freezing shut, place a plastic trash bag between the door and the frame.
- Keep the fuel tank at least half-full to avoid fuel-line freeze-up.
- Check your battery strength. Faulty batteries cause more car-starting problems than any other factor. Your car’s battery loses its strength by 60 percent in extreme cold. If your battery is more than two years old, have it checked. Most batteries last three to five years.
- Tires need more air pressure when it’s cold, and tires that are not properly inflated are more susceptible to a flat or blowout. Check the tire pressure.
- If your vehicle has been sitting idle for a day or more, turn on the engine every day the car is not used and let it idle no more than 30 seconds to recharge the battery. Keep in mind, it is against the law to idle a vehicle for more than five consecutive minutes in Maryland and never leave your vehicle unattended.
- When you are ready to begin your drive for the first time of the day in a vehicle that has been outside, allow a short warm-up period, no more than 30 seconds, before putting your vehicle in “Drive”. This allows fluids that have thickened because of the arctic temperatures to reach proper viscosity.
- If power windows do not roll up or down when the button is pushed, they may be frozen. Do not continue to push the button, the window may break. To prevent windows and doors from freezing, use a lubricant on the seals.
- If wiper blades are frozen to the windshield, do not turn the wipers on to free the blades. This can damage the motor that operates the wiper blades. Instead, use the vehicle’s defrost setting.
- If door locks are frozen, heat the key with a hair dryer or keep a de-icer spray inside your home. Do not put water on frozen door locks.
- Use windshield washer fluid with a winter solvent that won’t freeze.
- Make sure the engine coolant provides antifreeze protection down to the lowest temperatures you are likely to encounter; -30oF/-34oC is a good guideline.
- Make sure your vehicle has an emergency kit, which should include the following: cellphone and charger, jumper cables, warm gear for all potential passengers — boots, hats, gloves — blankets, flares, flashlight and extra batteries, extra food and water for all potential passengers, general first aid kit, non-clumping kitty litter, ice scraper, snow brush and shovel, and windshield washer fluid.
Also, as drivers head out after the storm:
Remove all snow from vehicle, including roof, hood, and trunk. While driving, snow can blow off a car onto the windshield of a nearby vehicle, temporary blinding that driver’s vision.
Slow down. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself ample room to stop. Allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you. Accelerate, turn and brake gradually.
Do not tailgate. Normal following distances of three to four seconds on dry pavement should be 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.
Slow down and move over – if you see police, EMS or roadside assistance operators helping a motorist on the side of the road.
Watch the traffic ahead. Slow down immediately at the sight of brake lights, skidding vehicles or emergency flashers.
Bridges and overpasses freeze first and melt last. Use extra caution as the roadway leading to the bridge may appear fine but the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.
Never use cruise control on slippery roads, as you lose the ability to transfer more weight to the front tire by simply lifting off the accelerator. A driver should always be in full control of their vehicle during poor road conditions.
Avoid unnecessary lane changes. This increases the chances of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that could cause loss of vehicle traction.
Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads may only result in spinning your wheels. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
Don’t stop going up a hill. It’s difficult to move up a hill on an icy road. If possible, get your vehicle moving on a flat roadway first before taking on a hill.
Minimize the need to brake on ice. If you’re approaching a stop sign, traffic light or other area where ice often forms, brake early on clear pavement to reduce speed. Vehicle control is much more difficult when braking on ice-covered roadways.
Control the skid. Slamming on the brakes can make the skid even worse. In the event of a skid, take your foot off the brake or accelerator, continue to look and steer where you want to go. Then begin to accelerate slowly.
Do not brake and turn at the same time. Asking your vehicle to do two things at a time makes it more likely that your tires will lose traction. Brake first, then turn, then accelerate.
Know your brakes. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS) and need to slow down quickly, press hard on the pedal. It’s normal for the pedal to vibrate a bit when the ABS is activated.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than 937,000 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.