How to Prepare Your Car for the Bitter Cold

We're expecting below-freezing temperatures and below-zero wind chills this weekend

car-battery
NBC Connecticut

With frigid temperatures and vicious wind chills expected Friday and Saturday, it's a good idea to make sure your car is ready to roll if you need to get somewhere.

Tracy Noble with AAA says the majority of calls they get during below-freezing temperatures are for dead batteries.

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"Now is certainly the time, if your car’s battery is 3 to 5 years old you should certainly have it tested. We don’t realize the amount of electronics in our cars these days and what the draw is on that battery," she explained.

"We know that when temperatures reach freezing that you lose about a third of the power of your vehicle's battery. But when temperatures dip below zero, as they're expected to on Saturday, your battery actually loses more than half of its power," Maggie Maguire of AAA Northeast adds.

Another tip? Even if your battery is not old, make sure to start your car up once and a while - sitting in the cold can drain it.

"If you have a car that you're only using once a week or less than that because you've been working from home, you want to make sure that you start that car and you take it out for a drive of at least 30 minutes before this cold snap arrives on Friday and Saturday," Maguire said.

Some other advice? Check your tires before you set out.

"What you might not realize is when the temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, your tire pressure will drop 1 PSI for every 10-degree drop," Noble explained.

Driving on low tires can, at best, affect your gas mileage and at worst lead to flat fires, a blowout, or the tread coming off your tire, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Another thing to remember during bitter cold - have an emergency roadside kit stocked in your car in case you do have an issue. Noble says that kit should include things like an ice scraper, jumper cables, de-icer, blankets, and extra sweatshirt, nonperishable foods, a flashlight with working batteries and a cell phone charger.

"You always want to be prepared and you don’t want to be stuck especially in frigid weather," Noble said.

One thing that you don't have to do if your car was made after 2007 - wait for it to warm up before driving off. Noble says most newer models only need 30 seconds to a minute to kick up before can drive, though you may want to run it longer for creature comfort, especially if you have young kids or the elderly riding with you. And another thing not to do, even if it's tempting - sit in your car to warm up if your power goes out.

"If you're sitting in your car and your windows are up because it's cold, carbon monoxide poisoning becomes obviously a hazard, a very real hazard. If you're compelled to do that, you really need to be cracking your windows on a regular basis to let fresh air in. So you really need to be careful about that," Maguire says.

And one final note - after the cold has passed, check your car again.

"Don't put yourself in a situation where on Monday morning you can't get to the office or to school or to the doctor if you need to," Maguire says.

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