'Tis the season to put on winter tires—and check your car battery: CAA

As London drivers scramble to get their winter tires put on, CAA of South Central Ontario is warning drivers to check their car batteries at the same time.

CAA SCO says they've had a 25 per cent increase in calls related to car batteries in the last two years

Snowflakes falling on London this week sent a flurry of drivers into auto shops to get their summer tires switched out. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

With Remembrance Day in the rear-view mirror and Thanksgiving long passed, many drivers are taking their seasonal cue to switch out their summer tires, leaving auto shops scrambling to keep up with demand.

At shops that don't take advance appointments, like Tim's New and Used Tires in London, Ont., the busyness is most striking first thing in the morning after the first snowfall, according to the shop's administrative assistant Tena Seamone.

Their daily calendar fills up by 9:30 in the morning, and staff have been clocking overtime trying to squeeze all their appointments in, she said.

Saturdays are the most chaotic.

"We work a shorter day on Saturday, so people are lined up outside the door and around the corner, we're parked two and three cars deep," said Seamone. "It's pretty insane."

Michael Paris of Village Auto Care says his shop has been getting between 25 and 30 winter service calls a day. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Michael Paris, service manager at London's Village Auto Care, says his shop does take appointments—but they've had to begin scheduling them about two weeks in advance.

"Next appointment would be Thursday Nov. 29," said Paris.

Still, it's an expected level of chaos at Village Auto, where customers reliably begin making appointments to get their tires changed between Thanksgiving and the end of November, he said.

The fall tire swap is a yearly ritual that's carried out through much of southern Ontario, according to the Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario (CAA SCO). Most of the association's members swap their summer tires out for winter ones, and tend to do so before December hits, according to public relations manager Kaitlynn Furse.

The problem is that many drivers are far less diligent about monitoring their car batteries, with the end result being an uptick in drivers getting stuck in a car that won't start, Furse said. 

CAA SCO has seen a 25 per cent increase in service calls related to dead batteries since 2016.

"[That's] pretty significant for us," Furse said.

"When batteries die, often they're gonna be problematic on those really cold, cold winter days, and we want to make sure we can get to everybody that needs help in those moments."

Hot weather, GPS a battery drain

Furse said the average lifespan of a car battery is around three to five years, but extreme temperature swings can drain the battery far quicker. Our growing reliance on in-car technology, such as vehicle navigation systems, can also suck the life out of a car battery, she said. 

"As you're planning your car maintenance it's important to keep your eye on that," she said.

Furse wants to see drivers check their batteries at the same time of year they change their tires—an idea Michael Paris  can get behind.

"What we try to teach our customers is to be proactive rather than reactive," said Paris.

"Batteries typically fail at the most inopportune time. You're trying to get to work at six o'clock in the morning, it doesn't start. If you had that battery in prior to that, it doesn't become an issue."