Calgary

Plug in your vehicle during extreme cold, reminds AMA

With an extreme cold snap on the way, the Alberta Motor Association is reminding drivers to plug in their parked vehicles when it's –15 C or colder.

Vehicles should be plugged in whenever the temperature drops below –15 C

Ron Wilson, manager of driver education for the Alberta Motor Association, says drivers should plug in their vehicles and carry an emergency kit during cold snaps. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

With an extreme cold snap on the way, the Alberta Motor Association is reminding drivers to plug in their parked vehicles when it's –15 C or colder.

"We did a recent survey and it shows that seven out of 10 drivers aren't plugging their vehicle in properly, and 27 per cent of drivers don't even plug their vehicle in," said Ron Wilson, manager of driver education for the association.

"One of the reasons for that is people think because they have a brand new vehicle they don't have to plug them in."

Motorists who own vehicles without a block heater — which keeps the engine warm so it starts in cold weather — should think about getting one installed, said Wilson.

"That way you won't have problems starting your vehicle," he said. "It's that easy and it's going to maybe keep you from being stranded someplace."

Cold weather can also be hard on batteries.

"They're good for about four to six years, so after three years we recommend getting your battery tested," he said.

"Typically when it gets to those extreme cold temperatures, a lot of the calls are bad batteries, or not [being] plugged in. If you're having trouble in the summer with your battery starting your vehicle, it doesn't want to start too good, once this cold weather hits, you're not going to start your vehicle."

Ryan Rankine, owner of South Pro Automotive, says dead batteries in cold weather is usually due to a lack of regular maintenance.

Ryan Rankine, owner of South Pro Automotive, said dead batteries in the cold is usually due to a lack of regular maintenance.

"We do a lot of winterizing at the beginning of winter, and if it's not cold enough at the beginning of winter, people don't get them winterized because they don't think it's going to need it. Then you get a cold spell in January or February and that's when the tow trucks roll in."

Motorists should also make sure they have an emergency kit in their vehicles, said Wilson.

"There are a lot of people who don't carry any type of survival gear with them," he said.

"We recommend you carry a safety kit, a first-aid kit and warm clothing, gloves and a big jacket. Once you get in the vehicle, you can always take off some of your layers to drive comfortably."

And Wilson said it's good to have a charged cellphone, but motorists should remember there isn't always service available when travelling through the mountains.

With files from Terri Trembath

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