The key to making sure your car starts this week? A good battery, says CAA

More than half of the auto club's calls this week involved battery issues, says CAA's Kaitlynn Furse

More than half of the auto club's calls this week involved battery issues

A woman clears snow from her car in Ottawa on Wednesday January 23, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Chances are high this week that you've seen at least a few cars with their hoods up in a parking lot or driveway — with a frustrated driver cursing nearby.

Thanks to record-breaking cold temperatures, some cars just can't muster up the means to get going.

So how do you make sure your car survives this cold snap? We asked Kaitlynn Furse, manager of public relations with the south-central Ontario division of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), for advice.

Make sure your battery is in tip-top shape

Furse says even a brand new battery can lose 30 per cent of its capacity in the cold. (Tory Gillis/CBC)

"The main issue with cars not starting in the cold really comes down to battery health," Furse explained, noting that a combination of extreme hot and cold temperatures and the growing amount of power-hungry electronics in cars is bad news for car batteries.

"At CAA, we've seen battery failures go up quite significantly over the past couple of the years — 25 per cent to be exact," she said. "What we're seeing that batteries just aren't lasting as long as they used to ... they typically only last 3 to 5 years."

In a normal week, the auto club, which services the area from Windsor to Kingston, receives about 4,000 calls for roadside assistance. This week, that number has doubled, with more than half being battery-related calls.

Keep your tank at least half-full

Keeping your tank at least half-full has multiple benefits. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Keeping your gas tank as full as possible is essential during the winter, Furse advised.

"At least half a tank will do two things," she said. "One, if you do run into an unexpected situation, you'll able to turn your car on and off and keep yourself warm while you're waiting for help."

"The other thing is if you do keep your gas very very low ... you are risking your gas line freezing," Furse added.

Warm up your car for just 30 seconds

Idling your car for minutes at a time isn't necessary. (CBC)

Assuming your car starts, the amount of time you need to warm up before hitting the road is shorter than you may think.

"We recommend that you don't let it idle more than 30 seconds or so," Furse said. "It doesn't seem like very long, but it's really all you need to get the car warmed up and ready to go — especially newer cars. After 30 seconds you're really just wasting gas."

Furse also explained that there's there's also no need to go out and run your car in the middle of the day to ensure your car starts before the commute home — it's more important to have a healthy battery.


Jonathan Pinto is the host of Up North, CBC Radio One's regional afternoon show for Northern Ontario and is based in Sudbury. He was formerly a reporter/editor and an associate producer at CBC Windsor. Email