Car battery tips: Things you aren't doing could leave you stranded.

Do you plug in your car or truck when the mercury drops below -15 C? If so, you’re one of the few Albertans who do. The Alberta Motor Association is reminding drivers to take care of their cars this winter after a survey found only three in 10 follow the association’s recommendation to plug in when the temperature hits -15 C.

“When it hits -15 C in Alberta, plugging in can mean the difference between an engine that starts and one that doesn’t,” Ryan Lemont, fleet services manager with AMA, said in a statement.

“Many people assume that newer vehicles don’t need the extra help, but frigid temperatures are incredibly hard on an engine if the block heater hasn’t been plugged in.”

The association polled 2,304 Albertans and found seven out of 10 don’t plug in at -15 C. Only 29 per cent of that group plug in when temperatures hit -20 C, and 27 per cent said they never plug in their cars during the winter. One in three people who don’t plug in said their vehicle never has a problem starting in cold weather, while 10 per cent said they don’t plug in because they own a newer vehicle. And even though the association found 87 per cent of respondents know where to find their block heater cord, 30 per cent of those surveyed have had a vehicle not start because they didn’t plug it in.

The association said battery related roadside calls nearly double in the colder months.

“If we assume behaviours don’t change in wintertime, the huge increase in failing batteries can almost entirely be attributed to weather,” Lemont said. “The weak battery that got you by in the summer can’t turn over a cold engine in the winter — which is why it’s so important to plug in.”

AMA broke its own record for the busiest battery problem day on Dec. 26, 2017, responding to more than 2,600 calls on Boxing Day.

To keep your battery working in the winter, AMA recommends you:

Plug in your vehicle for at least four hours before driving when temperatures dip below -15 C.Use a battery tender when leaving your vehicle unused for extended periods to help ensure your vehicle will start. Watch for signs of a weak battery, like an engine that is slow to turn over, headlights dimming while idling, and digital systems powering down quickly.Test your battery regularly after three years of ownership. Most batteries in Alberta last four to six years and tests are free for AMA members.Keep an emergency roadside kit in your vehicle, in addition to a first-aid kit, blanket, warm clothes, phone charger, sand, road salt or kitty litter, ice scraper and snow brush, shovel, flashlight with spare batteries, food and water.

For more winter battery life tips visit www.AMA.ab.ca.

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