AAA: More dead batteries likely during holiday weekend

AAA has experienced an increase in calls over the years from motorists stranded on roads due to feeble, or dead, vehicle batteries, according to a AAA Auto Club South spokesperson.

Joanna Newton said the call volume for AAA service technicians to assist with jump starts and battery replacements on Labor Day weekends, rose 12 percent from 2009 to 2010. These calls came from motorists in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, she said.

The call volume rose 40 percent from 2008 to 2009, added Newton. She said, in the past decade, the number of AAA members calling for battery assistance increased from 4,000 a year, to 400,000.

“We want motorists to be prepared, if their battery fails this Labor Day weekend,” added Jay Bolster, Sr., manager of AAA Battery Service Operations. “It’s a busy holiday for motorists, and extremely hot — the heat alone can have a negative impact on battery life.”

He said the average lifetime of a battery used in hot weather is about two years, due to the large amount of power needed by the average modern car and motorist. Ordinarily, batteries last an average of 37 to 40 months in hot climates.

Modern-day vehicles exhaust batteries more quickly these days, Newton said, because they are equipped with many more items that need power, such as GPS systems, cell phones and iPods. Vehicles also drain extra energy to power fans, security-and-diagnostic systems, and engine-management tools, often when the car is not in motion.

“The basic car battery has not changed in more than 30 years, but cars have,” said Bolster. “Make sure you know how to change the battery in your own vehicle, and take your time with it because it isn’t always as easy to get at your car battery in today’s modern cars.”

A vehicle that starts slower than usual is an early warning that a battery is about to die, said Newton. Other early signs include interior lights dimming or flickering, and after-market equipment not operating properly, she said.

If these signs appear, drivers should test their battery to find out if it needs to be charged or replaced, said the spokeswoman. Motorists will find out their battery is dead if the car won’t start, and it experiences a number of rapid clicks, she said.

Newton said to properly jump start a car battery, the owner must read his or her manual, and wear goggles in case of an explosion, and check for corroded or lose connections.