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Bitter cold brings bevy of car troubles for NEO drivers

Posted at 5:00 PM, Jan 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-31 17:38:15-05

CLEVELAND — If you had car trouble Thursday morning, you were far from being the only one.

According to AAA, the bone-chilling cold brought on by the polar vortex led to a massive surge in calls for service on Thursday with most members reporting a dead battery.

According to a spokesperson, roughly 4500 customers in the company’s east central region, which includes Cleveland and Pittsburgh, called AAA for help by midday Thursday. That was 1700 more calls for service than midday Wednesday. Even Wednesday’s total calls for service was about 20 percent higher than a typical winter day, a company spokesperson said.

“The most common things that AAA sees as far as how we’re responding to member's calls is dead batteries,” said Lori Cook, a traffic safety advisory for AAA.

Kyle Stallard, the district manager for Conrad’s Total Car Care, has seen it too.

“The number one thing is (car) batteries going bad,” Stallard said. “People are coming out in the morning in the frigid weather and your car won’t start. We do see an increase in business around this time. There are cars that get breaking down and we do have to service them.”

Long stretches of sub-zero temperatures can wreak havoc on a vehicle, especially its electrical system. Tires, fluids and belts that connect engine components are also susceptible.

“Tire pressure can drop in the cold weather. It’s always good to have your tire pressure checked,” Stallard said. “Make sure there are no safety lights on such as your [tire pressure] sensor or any check engine lights. You want to make sure the gauge reads up to running condition. [Belts] don’t like the cold weather as much so they can make noise. The steering can feel tight when starting up your car. Let that warm up so it feels smooth as you drive.”

In order to avoid car trouble catching drivers off-guard, Cook said it is vital to have an extra blanket, hats, mittens, water and non-perishable food in your vehicle during the winter months.

"Preparation is everything,” Cook said. “Depending on the amount of distance you’re going to drive we always tell everybody to have a drive plan. Tell people what route you are taking.”