BLOOMINGTON — Eight people were waiting outside when Interstate All Battery Center opened its doors Tuesday morning on Lafayette Street.
“We had 50 cars Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each day” last week, said manager Mike Sutter, noting the store did about a week's worth of business in four days.
The story is similar at other auto supply and service centers in the area that remains in the deep freeze as temperatures hovered around 15 degrees below zero Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service says the frigid cold will continue through the end of the week.
“We haven't stopped since 7:30 this morning,” Hector Serratos, commercial parts manager at Advance Auto Parts, 1601 W. Market St., Bloomington, said Tuesday afternoon. “It's been battery, battery, battery.”
Those dead battery problems also meant busy times for emergency road service providers such as AAA motor club.
As of Tuesday morning, AAA had received 1,300 calls for service in Illinois in the past 24 hours, up 73 percent from four weeks ago, said Beth Mosher, director of public affairs for the AAA Chicago office.
In the 24 hours before that, AAA had received just under 1,000 calls, but that represented a 277 percent increase from four weeks ago, she said.
Although Mosher couldn't say when was the last time AAA has been this busy, she said, “It's busier certainly than it was this time last year.”
Most of the calls were for dead batteries, lockouts, tire problems or towing, she said.
Not everyone called AAA. Some turned to neighbors or friends for a jump-start, and others did what Becky Longstreth of Heyworth did: Call their parents.
“At 7:30 this morning, she called and we went down to jump it,” said her mother, Jeanie Dunham of Bloomington, as she waited at Interstate All Battery Center. “Her father (Bob) told her, 'We're taking you to get a good battery. We don't want to run back and forth to Heyworth to get you started.'”
Dunham noted that their car is in a garage while their daughter has to park outside.
“The old folks are getting around. The young ones aren't,” she said.
Serratos said people could “save money, time and a lot of drama” if they would do preventive maintenance before severe weather hits.
The three essentials in preparing for winter are checking the battery, tire pressure and engine coolant, said Steve Trower, partner/co-owner and service adviser at Clay Dooley Tire and Auto, 1507 E. Vernon Ave., Bloomington.
Many places offer free car battery testing.
Check the tread depth on tires to ensure you will have enough traction when it snows and keep the windshield washer reservoir filled with a deicer formula in winter to clear slush and grimy road chemicals that spray on windows, experts advise.
You might try putting off a new battery or tires, hoping for fair weather, but, Trower said, “Mother Nature always wins.”
If you were one of the many with a dead battery on Tuesday, don't blame the cold entirely.
“The cold is not what kills the battery,” said Sutter. “Heat breaks them down, then it shows up in the winter.”
Nevertheless, cold is a factor.
“At zero degrees, a car battery loses 60 percent of its strength,” said Trower.
Sutter also recommended having a portable jump-start pack as a backup when another vehicle isn't available to provide assistance.
Other advice for winter driving includes keeping your fuel tank at least half full. Mosher said that helps prevent gas line freeze and also allows you to keep running your heater if you are stranded and waiting for help.
If you are stranded, stay in your car with your seat belts fastened, Mosher emphasized. It makes you easier to find and protects you if your car gets hit. People have lost their lives while outside their car after a crash or other incident, she noted.
“It's a good time to remind people of the Move-Over Law,” said Mosher.
Originally, the law required people to slow down and move over for emergency vehicles with flashing lights. In January 2017 the law was expanded to include any vehicle with flashing hazard lights.