Alberta Motor Association is still playing catch up after getting more than 60,000 calls from Albertans needing help with dead vehicle batteries, flat tires and break-downs last week.
AMA Supervisor Brandon Klassen said at the peak of the cold, customers at home were waiting up to 48 hours for service, but those on the highway, or in a dangerous situation with no safe place to go, saw a tow truck within two hours.
“Safety always remains our top priority. Our teams in Red Deer have been working around the clock and doing a really good job managing those priorities and making sure people were safe,” Klassen said.
“Right now we’re currently quoting eight hours for towing, and four hours for light service which is like boosting, unlocking and flat tires,” Klassen said Monday morning.
Last week, overall call volume was 6.5 times the winter norm, and 65 per cent were battery-related calls.
Klassen said even if a vehicle started, driving only 10 or 20 minutes a day around Red Deer during the extreme cold was not enough for an alternator to maintain a battery.
He advised people also have their batteries tested, plug in vehicles for four hours if it dips below -15 C, and call a professional if vehicles need a boost.
“If a battery ends up freezing because it has no voltage, it could cause an explosion in the battery if you attempt to boost it.”
He said an improper boost can cause an electrical surge throughout the charging system which can have expensive consequences for vehicles with sophisticated electronics.
AMA works with Key Towing in Red Deer, and a light-service contractor, in addition to having an AMA fleet light-service battery truck. Service providers in nearby communities can be called to help out, but the cold snap was province-wide and there were no extra resources available anywhere, Klassen said.
“It was all hands on deck. Trucks were running 24 hours a day,”
He said members did have the option of calling a non-AMA service provider. AMA will reimburse a minimum of 50 per cent of the cost based on their membership level. Receipts are required within 30 days.
AMA’s tips for staying safe during cold weather include: ensure tires are properly inflated; always carry an emergency kit; consider alternate transportation until a battery test is completed, or new battery is installed, if there is any doubt about a battery’s health; keep gas tanks at least half full and consider using gas-line antifreeze; maintain a safe following distance while driving on icy or snowy roads.