The AA experienced its busiest ever day today with over 700 calls for assistance received by lunchtime. The big chill is affecting car battery and electrical systems and battery failures are four or five times greater than a typical Monday.
“Today was the first day back at work for many people and for that reason we did expect an extremely busy day, but this has turned out to be extraordinary.” Says Director of Policy Conor Faughnan. “The normal post-Christmas effect has been compounded by the big freeze. Car batteries are very vulnerable in low temperatures and AA Member’s cars have been breaking down in record numbers.”
The AA would normally expect to attend to 400-500 call outs on a typical Monday. The busiest days of 2008 and 2009 both occurred in January and both included over 900 call outs. Previously the highest number of call out jobs for a single day was 913 on 2nd January 2007.
“Today we had 700 call outs by lunchtime and demand continued steady through the afternoon.” Says Faughnan. “We have literally never seen anything like it. It is likely to be a record, and we are not sure how high it will go before the day is over.”
The AA has deployed all of its resources and every AA Patrol is on duty. Nevertheless there is still a delay for members because of the extraordinary volume of breakdown calls.
Many motorists were attempting to start their cars for the first time since Christmas Eve, the vehicles having been parked up for the holiday period. The busiest locations are the cities of Dublin and Cork but with the bad weather there are increased calls countrywide.
“We will get through the workload and every single member will be helped.” Says Faughnan.
Batteries & Cold weather
It’s no coincidence that the car battery always dies on the coldest winter day. Low temperatures thicken engine oil and other engine fluids, making them more viscous, and increase electrical resistance – this makes the battery work harder. Most batteries work at only 40% of their normal power in cold weather. There is also greater demand on heating and electrical systems. Most modern batteries are sealed-for-life units and you do not need to check water levels as in days gone by, but they do still fail and typically need to be replaced every 40,000 kms or so. If a battery is weak or aging then it becomes highly likely that it will fail during a cold snap.
If your battery is weak or the car is struggling to start:
· To improve your chances of starting all the electrics should be switched off. Check the wipers in particular – they could be switched on from the day before and now frozen to the screen.
· If the car is struggling then use the starter motor in five second bursts but give the battery thirty seconds to recover each time.
· Check the terminals – they should be free of corrosion. If you can, try cleaning them with a wire brush.
· Even when the car can be started, older batteries may need to be replaced or the car will break down again.