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Driving less during the pandemic? Don't let winter kill your car

Posted at 7:34 AM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 07:36:07-05

RICHMOND, Va. — As the temperatures dropped, AAA warned drivers that the cold could exacerbate any car problems and recommended drivers get their vehicles winter-ready.

At 32 degrees, AAA said a car battery is 35% weaker, and at zero degrees, the battery loses about 60% of its strength.

Morgan Dean, Spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said electronics and things plugged into the vehicle, drain the battery even more.

“What happens in the winter, is if your car’s having any kind of a problem, you’re going to know it,” said Dean. “Then it’s those super cold days where we get a snowstorm and the temperatures are below zero, and there’s just so much moisture out there. And it’s so cold and those vehicles struggle to get started."

He said there are some things you can check before winter hits.

Dean recommended inspecting the battery — looking for any corrosion. He said drivers can follow directions in their vehicle manual to clean it with baking soda and water.

Dean said if the battery is leaking or is damaged, you should reach out to an expert for help.

Those who are AAA members could call roadside assistance to their homes to check their batteries.

Some other things to check: fluids, breaks, tire pressure, engine, lights, and exhaust.

Drivers who notice any pulsations or noises when breaking should get breaks checked, according to AAA.

They also recommend replacing worn windshield wiper blades.

“This year, people have not been driving their cars as much because they were parked for a good bit of the early part of the pandemic,” Dean said. “And a lot of people are still working from home, so they may not have had their vehicle checks this year, because they’re looking up saying, ‘Oh, I’ve only put 1500 miles on the vehicle, I think I’m good.’ It might be time to do it just because it has been sitting a lot more this year.”

Dean recommended drivers also pack their cars now with an emergency kit for winter ahead of the season.

“The other problem that you run into is people getting stranded on the roadway,” Dean said.

That storm ready kit should include:

  • drinking water
  • first aid
  • snacks
  • a bag of abrasive material like cat litter
  • a snow shovel, blankets
  • flashlight
  • window washer solvent
  • ice scraper
  • paper towels
  • jumper cables
  • basic toolkit

AAA also recommended pre-programming your mobile phone with rescue apps and the numbers of emergency services.

They said you should also keep PPE items in your car like masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes.