Need a jump? Car safety in cold weather - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Need a jump? Car safety in cold weather

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With temperatures set to plummet, automotive experts say there are ways people can prepare for a successful morning commute.

At Vaughn's Automotive in Dubuque, owner Ron Vaughn sees all kinds of winter-related damage this time of year.

"People sliding around the corner in the snow and hitting the curb, they're taking out wheel bearings, bending tie rods, spindles," Vaughn said. "We're seeing a lot of that front-end damage. We're also seeing quite a few no-starts."

When it comes to dead or stalled batteries, Vaughn said, the safest route is to call an expert, such as a towing company or the American Automobile Association.

For folks in a bind, who can't call an expert, remembering the proper jumper cable order is very important.

For all cars, the order begins by placing one of the two positive cables on the positive side of the dead or stalled battery. Next, place the other positive cable on the positive side of the live battery. Third, clamp one of the two negative cables on the negative side of the live battery.

The fourth and final clamp's placement differs depending on your vehicle, and that's why it's so important to check the owner's manual (or call an expert) before jumping the vehicle.

In some vehicles, particularly older models, the fourth (and negative) cable goes on the negative side of the dead battery. In other models, often newer ones, that clamp goes, instead, on an exposed metal part of the stalled vehicle's engine, away from the battery and the carburetor/fuel injection system.

In other words, if you just default to the classic way but your car calls for the new way, you could do some damage.

"The best way to do it, of course, is call the professionals," Vaughn said. "Call a wrecker service, have them come by. They have the quality of cable required to start that vehicle when it's cold, and most of them take some type of towing insurance or AAA."

If you find you do need a jump in cold weather, experts recommend letting the car idle for about five minutes after you've successfully started the engine. That allows it to get enough of a charge.

Vaughn also warned about vehicle battery chargers. Using one overnight in a garage, for example, can build up fumes that are flammable. Users will want to unplug their charger from the outlet before removing the cables from the engine, in order to avoid a spark. If someone smells anything unusual, Vaughn recommends, unplug the unit from the outlet but then wait a few minutes before removing the clamps from the engine.

He also recommends people make sure their windshield wiper fluid has a low enough freezing point to withstand the cold temperatures. He recommends one with a freezing point between -30 and -50.

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