Starting a Car On A Cold Morning Can Be Made Easier, AAA Says

Orlando, Fla. – 10/15/2003

The temperature doesn’t need to drop very far for some of us to feel a sense of inconvenience and discomfort in our driveway. While drivers can’t do anything about the weather, they can alter their morning routines in ways that make winter car trips less numbing, AAA says.

During AAA Car Care Month in October, AAA reminds motorists that although today’s vehicles are more reliable then those made years ago, some things never change. Frost still forms on the windshield. Door locks ice up, batteries run down and seats seem to take forever to get warm.

“Sometimes coping with all the minor difficulties of getting our vehicles going in cold weather can lead to unsafe driving practices,” said John Nielsen, director of AAA’s Approved Auto Repair program. “Driving with windows not fully cleared of ice or snow, struggling to peer through still foggy windshields, or hoping the battery won’t die after it has been jump started, are less than ideal conditions for a morning commute,” he said.

To help motorists cope with their cold cars, AAA offers the following advice:

Use your garage if you have one. Park the family vehicle outside during the summer if you must, but have a garage sale and then pull the car inside if possible this winter.

If you must park outside, check your vehicle first thing in the morning. Are the windows covered with frost? Is it possible the door locks are iced over? Will you need some extra time to get underway this morning?

If the door locks are frozen, fill a container with lukewarm water and pour it on the lock. This should melt the ice away enough for you to insert a key and unlock the door. Don’t try to chip the ice away with your key as this may damage the key and your car’s finish. (And, never pour hot water on windows. They may crack.)

If the car is covered with snow, use a brush and not your hands to get it off. Don’t worry about clearing frost or ice from the windows yet.

Start the car, making sure the transmission is in park and the brake is set. If the vehicle is inside, open the garage door so carbon monoxide doesn’t build up in the garage. Switch the heater to the defrost setting. Turn on the rear window defroster, if you have one.

Go back inside and have a hot beverage, or do something else for five minutes while the vehicle begins to warm up and does most of the work of clearing the windows. Keep an extra key so you can lock the doors. An idling vehicle can be a temptation to car thieves.

When you go back outside, you should be able to get most of the ice or frost off the windows with a little effort and an ice scraper. Once the windows are clear, you are ready to begin your trip.

One of the most common and frustrating problems encountered during cold weather is battery failure, Nielsen said. “The only sure way to know your battery will be there for you on those cold mornings is to have it tested by a reliable repair shop. This is especially true of any battery more than two years old.”

AAA recommends motorists have their battery checked at a AAA Approved Repair facility. There are thousands of AAA Approved shops throughout North America and each is regularly inspected by AAA to make sure they employ qualified technicians, use quality parts and service equipment, meet or exceed AAA’s customer satisfaction requirements, and follow ethical business practices.

In a growing number of areas throughout the United States and Canada, AAA also offers a mobile battery service that will come to your vehicle, test the battery and electrical system and install a new battery on the spot, if one is needed and requested by the consumer.

Information on the AAA Approved Auto Repair network and the AAA Battery Service are available on the Internet at:, or by calling your local AAA club.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 46 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

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