Cold Weather Car Care: The top mistakes you’re probably making

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Western New York is in the deep freezer Friday, and that can be tough not only on you but on your vehicle.

AAA of Western and Central New York reps say they are expecting to respond to twice the normal volume of calls for a Friday, mostly because of batteries dying in the cold.

Dan Fisher, the assistant Buffalo fleet manager, says the car batteries typically last between three and five years in our area because of our weather, but some batteries’ lives are shortened because of the overuse of remote car starters.

“What you don’t want to do is just go out every day when you’re not going to drive and just let it run for five or ten minutes,” Fisher said. “So we get a lot of calls where people have said ‘I use the remote starter every day and let it run for a couple of minutes and then today of all days it won’t start,’ and that’s because the vehicle hasn’t had a chance to recharge that battery power that’s taken out by starting it.”

Fisher says idling your car without driving it around can also damage your engine. Engines are made to get airflow through the grill to keep them in their normal operating temperature range. If it idles too long, the engine can get too hot.

On the other hand, letting your car warm up in the driveway could be just the ticket to deal with some of the most common winter weather woes.

Locks tend to freeze on older cars especially.

You can go in through a door you can get open to get your car warming up then wait for the frozen lock to thaw. You can also try heating your key up, or using lock de-icer, which is available at auto parts stores.

Fisher says you should not pour hot water on frozen locks.

“That will just freeze, immediately, so now you’ll have a bigger problem,” he warned.

The same is true if you’re trying to use warm water to clean off your windshield. It does melt the frost on the window initially, but it quickly refreezes, leaving you with a new layer of ice.

“That icing is really going to be an issue, especially on the road. You really need to be able to see, first and foremost,” Fisher said.

Fisher says you should always make sure you have good levels of windshield washer fluid, and ensure your wipers and tires are in good enough condition to handle the weather conditions of the day.

“If they’re not, maybe you delay that trip until tomorrow and just kind of wait that out,” Fisher suggested.

If you do hit the road and find yourself in trouble, Fisher says you should have supplies with you to get you through until you can get help. That includes blankets, hats, snacks, and a phone charger for your car.

“Sometimes in cases where people get stuck, they keep a little kitty litter, that can help just give you some traction to help you get started,” Fisher added.

“And a map to Florida. That’s really nice on a day like today,” he laughed.

Since we aren’t in Florida, of course, many of us have gotten into the habit of leaving our windshield wipers popped up and away from the windshield when we park, to prevent icing of the blades.

Fisher says that’s a mistake.

Windshield wipers are on springs, and leaving the blades up like that can stretch the springs over time, so they end up applying less pressure on the windshield, making them less effective.

For more tips and advice from AAA, click here.

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