Paul Miller, Key Towing and Storage driver supervisor, takes a look at a battery Thursday night, while the temperature sat around 20 C. Miller said the Red Deer towing company has been very busy the past week with the low temperatures. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Cold temperatures can make starting vehicle tough

As the weather gets colder, cars get harder to start.

Key Towing and Storage in Red Deer has received plenty of calls over the past week, a number of which have been for battery boosts. This comes as weather has dropped below -30 C at points.

Paul Miller, driver supervisor, said the towing business’ normal response time to a call is one hour. But this past week, it’s taking four or five hours to respond.

“It’s quite a bit busier with the cold snap,” he said. “Every single winter we’ll have stretches like this.”

Miller said when he went home Wednesday night, the 24-hour business had 30 calls on hold.

In addition to battery boosting calls, there are plenty of tow calls after collisions in the snow during winter.

Miller said the most important thing a driver should do if their car doesn’t start is to immediately call for a tow.

“The sooner you call, the sooner we’ll get to you and the busier it gets, the longer the wait time,” he said.

If a driver’s car does start during the hours-long wait for a truck’s arrival, make sure to call and cancel, he added.

“What slows us down the most is when we show up to somebody’s house and find out they no longer need us,” Miller said.

Randy Loyk, Alberta Motor Association (AMA) manager of technical services, said there are three things a driver should do to ensure a car starts in the morning.

“You won’t have any issues if you get your oil changed to synthetic, make sure you battery is in good condition and plug the vehicle in,” said Loyk.

Using synthetic oil allows the engine to turnover quicker in cold temperatures.

Drivers should plug their vehicles in if the temperature drops below -15 C, Loyk said.

If a vehicle won’t start and wasn’t plugged in overnight, Loyk said the driver should plug in the vehicle and wait two hours.

“Generally the vehicle will start, but if it doesn’t give us a call. We’ll come out, determine what the problem is, try to get it going, but if that doesn’t work we’ll tow it to a repair facility,” he said.

Central Alberta isn’t the only place experiencing a number of calls, Loyk added.

“We’re extremely busy right now,” he said. “We’re completing more than 3,000 call around the province. Of those calls, we’re completing five times the normal amount of boosting calls.”

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