Protect your home, car during bitter cold

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
Good Samaritans help push a car owned by Jag Gangishetti of Farmington Hills out of a ditch at Heritage Park in Farmington Hills on Monday.

As temperatures continue to fall, heating specialists and tow truck drivers already were seeing an increase in calls for service. It's only expected to get worse as the mercury falls further.

By Tuesday, requests for roadside assistance were up by 50 percent this week over the week before, said Nancy Cain, spokeswoman for AAA Michigan. The most common calls from motorists are for car batteries, flat tires, cars in ditches and spinouts, she said.

“We’ve had people calling for being out of gas,” she said. “We’re encouraging people to make sure you have a full tank of gas.”

Cain also advises motorists to have their batteries checked. If the engine barely turns over when the ignition switch is engaged, that's a warning sign. “The cold can really wreak havoc on batteries,” she said.

To handle the influx of calls, extra help has been called in to AAA’s call center. Some motorists might experience some delays for service due to the high volume of calls for roadside assistance from tow-truck drivers.

“They’re doing yeoman's work in this very cold weather,” Cain said.

Furnace technicians have already seen an increase in emergency calls this week and are bracing for more.

“Generally once the temperature drops to more of an extreme temperature, the furnaces have to work harder,” said Dayna Corrion, owner of C&C Heating and Air Conditioning in Roseville. “It’s more likely to break down.”

Corrion said that the snow can also factor into furnace breakdowns if it covers the intake for high efficiency systems.

C&C Heating and Air Conditioning has 20 service technicians, with three working during the evening to answer after-hour calls, Corrion said.

In Westland, Technical Hot & Cold also has a team of technicians that work overnight to handle emergency calls. “We’re prepared for the flood of calls that will be coming in,” said Jason Freeman, operations manager.

Both Corrion and Freeman advise regular furnace maintenance checks to avoid future issues.

Freeman says to be mindful of any strange furnace noises.

“If you are hesitant, now is the time to get yours serviced, if not with us, with someone that can get you in before the cold, cold weather hits,” he said.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

    Consumers Energy tips for staying warm

    • Have furnaces inspected and tuned annually.
    • Replace furnace filters monthly during cold weather.
    • Keep flammable materials including clothing and boxes away from the furnace.
    • Keep space heaters away from curtains, furniture, clothing and other flammable materials.
    • Unplug space heaters before leaving the room or going to sleep.
    • Never use a stovetop or oven or charcoal grill to heat your home.
    • Never use a generator inside a home, basement or garage. Keep generators outdoors at least 25 feet from the home.

    American Red Cross tips to preventfrozen pipes

    • Keep the garage door closed if there are water supply lines. 
    • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate.
    • Let the cold water drip from faucets. A trickle can prevent pipes from freezing. 
    • Set the thermostat to the same temperature during the day and night. 
    • Set the temperature to no lower than 55 degrees. 
    • Use a hair dryer to thaw frozen pipes

    AAA car tips

    • Have a winter kit that includes an ice scraper and brush, blanket, boots, gloves, hat, shovel and jumper cables. 
    • Keep the gas tank at least half full to avoid fuel-line freeze-up.
    • Clear snow and ice from the vehicle windows, hood, headlights and hood to improve visibility.
    • Slow down in the snow when visibility and road conditions are impaired.
    • Be ready for ice on bridges, hidden lane-markings, stalled cars.
    • Have the battery checked by a technician.
    • Top up windshield solvent.
    • Replace cracked or frayed windshield wipers.
    • Monitor weather conditions before heading out.