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Mechanics warn drivers about car battery issues during winter months

Mechanics say they often see a surge in customers complaining about dead car batteries during the winter months.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — As temperatures drop to the twenties and teens in central Pennsylvania, issues with car batteries have affected many drivers. 

One Harrisburg mechanic said he noticed a surge in customers reporting battery issues recently. 

"People have stopped in a little bit more often," said Michael Rothgaber of All Tune and Lube automotive in Harrisburg. "[I] guess it's the difference in the weather, unfortunately."

Local car dealers explained that during the winter months, car batteries are forced to work harder to start an engine. 

"Obviously, we all want to put the heater on full blast and we want the cabin to warm up as soon as possible, and that puts a lot of demand on the vehicle's engine [and] its battery," said AJ Benedetto, a Ford auto dealer.

Battery problems are also not limited to gas-powered cars. 

Electric vehicles (EVs) can see at least a 20% loss of range during the winter months. Furthermore, EV owners said traveling long distances is already challenging since there are few charging stations near interstates.

"It's fine for when I'm driving locally because I charge at home and I'm always plugged in, but...when you're going on a national trip, like I just did, it takes a bit of planning especially if you like to go visit national parks," said Jenny Hook, an EV driver.

Others say being stuck on a snowy highway worries them, especially after drivers were recently stuck on I-95 in Virginia for more than 20 hours.

"It does concern me—what would I do if I get stranded?" said Colleen Hellerman, a Tesla owner who drives an average of 200 miles weekly. "I know people [stranded on I-95] walked away from their cars that were out of gas and had to go back and put gas in the cars and get them out of there, but I wouldn't be able to do that, I'd have to bring a generator." 

To get most out of an EV battery, auto dealers recommend drivers: 

  • Park their car in a garage where temperatures are warmer.
  • Charge the vehicle overnight to get the most range.
  • Avoid turning on the car while it charges since that will likely drain the battery.

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