Deep freeze sees near record demand for Battery Service

After being spoiled with last year’s mild winter, Albertans are getting an unwelcome reminder about the risks of leaving their cars unplugged. On Monday, AMA responded to nearly three times the number of Battery Service calls than a normal winter day. By Tuesday, that volume had climbed to four times the usual amount -- the highest demand in a 24-hour period since March 2014!

“When temperatures drop below -15C, plugging in your vehicle can mean the difference between an engine that starts and one that doesn’t,” said Randy Loyk, a Manager in Automotive Services at AMA. “It’s a small preventative step that makes a huge difference in this bitter cold.”

On both Monday and Tuesday, AMA rescued almost twice the volume of members compared to a normal winter. Requests for tire service and tows were also nearly double their typical rate due to icy road conditions. And if Wednesday's early volume is any indication, it's likely AMA will break its all-time record of single-day Battery calls, set in January 2012.

To steer clear of winter woes, AMA recommends the following:

  • Winterize your vehicle. Make sure your fluids are topped up and fuel is topped up. As soon as temperatures dip below -15 degrees Celsius, don’t forget to plug in your block heater. Mother Nature will not be kind to you and your vehicle otherwise. And if you haven’t put on your winter tires, now’s the time to do it.

  • Adjust your following distance. It’s the cardinal rule of driving in the winter. Instead of a two-to-three second following distance, allow at least four to six seconds between you and the vehicle ahead of you. When the vehicle ahead of you passes an object that you’ve chosen as a starting point (e.g. street lamp), slowly count "one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand." If you reach the object before completing the count, you're following too closely.

  • Drive to conditions. Don’t drive at 80 km/h simply because the posted speed limit is 80 km/h. You could, in fact, receive a speeding ticket because you’re endangering other motorists. The more treacherous the weather, the more caution you should take.

  • Know how to apply your brakes. Pumping the brakes is not only outdated, it’s downright dangerous. Your vehicle will likely come equipped with ABS brakes, and you should deploy them using firm but steady pressure on the brake pedal. Non-ABS vehicles require a different technique: brake to the point just before the wheels lock up, then ease up slightly and reapply.

  • Turn on the lights. It may sound obvious but some drivers don’t do it or forget to. Daytime running lights are not as visible in reduced daylight conditions and can barely cut through fog. Snow and mud also further decreases your vehicle’s visibility, so make it a habit of turning your lights during the day.

  • Say no to cruising. Never use cruise control in slippery road conditions. It’s easier to feel the road and gauge its changing conditions with your foot on the pedal.

  • Check weather and travel conditions before heading out with AMA Road Reports. Avoid non-essential travel if you can.

  • Pack an emergency roadside kit. AMA sells them in centres, or you could make your own, including such items as: First-aid kit, blanket, warm clothes and footwear, paper towels or rags, sand, road salt or non-clumpy kitty litter, ice scraper and snow brush, candle in a deep tin, waterproof matches, shovel, flashlight with spare batteries, and food/water.

UPDATED 12 p.m. Dec 7, 2016 


The Alberta Motor Association (AMA) is among the largest membership organizations in Alberta, representing more than 975,000 members. As a leading advocate for traffic safety, travel and consumer protection and crime prevention, AMA represents the interests of its members to industry and all levels of government and helps protect the things they care about most. Visit ama.ab.ca to learn more about AMA’s products, services and member advocacy efforts.