To start or not to start, that is the question.

Wednesday’s abysmally-cold temperatures played havoc on cars across the Heart of Illinois.

Air temps in the negative 20’s and feels-like chills of nearly 50 below made things almost as uncomfortable for your vehicle as it did for you.

“The issue that really gets hammered in this bad weather is batteries,” explained Terry Beachler, owner of Beachler’s Vehicle Care. “Battery capacity drops way, and you get those no-start situations.”

Beachler’s been in the auto business for decades, and shared some tips to keep in mind:

  • DON’T start your car and let it idle for an extended period of time. A warm car will feel nice, but killing your battery won’t.

“As far as warm-up, warm it up for a minute or two, not very long,” said Beachler. “There’s no need to warm a car up for 15, 20 minutes.”

  • DO crank the heat and drive around. The car might start out chilly, but will warm faster in-use and driving charges the battery in the process.

Another culprit for car problems this time of year: flat tires.

“If you go into this kind of weather with low tires, the air contracts a bit and you wind up with a flat in the worst possible conditions.”

  • DON’T drive around if your tires are any more than a little flat.

Even if they’re only a little low, you might not be able to go to the corner-store air pump.

“They (the pumps) get moisture in them because they’re not really well-serviced, and once they do that, they’re no good,” said Peoria Fire Chief Ed Olehy.

He also had some tips on how to keep yourself safe, if you do find yourself stuck.

  • DO keep warm clothes on or in your car, even if you’re only planning on being outside between parking and getting to work.

“You can’t stay in this cold for very long in a car that’s not running. It gets cold so quickly, it’s very dangerous,” Olehy said.

The polar front affecting the Heart of Illinois should move out by Thursday – but the advice listed above can and should be used year-round to avoid being left out in the cold.

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