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Drivers: don’t get caught out by the post-Christmas flat battery blues

Press release   •   Jan 02, 2020 00:01 GMT

The RAC is warning motorists to make sure that the first Monday after the festive break (6 January 2020) doesn’t turn into a nightmare due to a flat car battery.

The first day back after the Christmas and New Year break is traditionally the biggest breakdown day of the year for the RAC as thousands of cars have been left unused over the holiday period. People who have vehicles with older batteries are likely to be at greater risk of a ‘New Year non-start’ as the cold damp weather and long periods of inactivity are the perfect combination to drain batteries.

This year the RAC is expecting to be called out to around 12,000 breakdowns on Monday 6 January with nearly a third of those call-outs likely to be flat batteries. As a result when their owners go to start them they will be greeted with anything but the sound of the engine firing up.

Last time round, RAC patrols dealt with 3,600 battery-related breakdowns on Monday 7 January 2019 which represented 31% of all its call-outs that day. Wednesday 2nd January 2019 was also busy a day for flat batteries with 2,422, or 26% of all RAC breakdowns.

New research carried out with 3,480 members of the RAC Opinion Panel* shows 6% of drivers have suffered a post-Christmas flat battery. Of those, 58% say it was due to the vehicle not being used for several days and 13% claim to have fallen victim twice.

As many as 40% who have suffered this problem say the last time it happened to them they were on the way to work, and 17% say it caused a big problem for them.

A more cautious 31%, however, take precautions to guard against getting a flat vehicle battery after the Christmas break. Among these, more than half (55%) drive their vehicles every day, 22% use a special trickle charger to keep the battery healthy and 18% run the engine while stationary for a few minutes – something which the RAC says can do more harm than good.

RAC patrol of the year Ben Aldous said:

“Lots of people will be dreading Monday 6 January as the first day back at work after enjoying an extended Christmas break. Unfortunately for many the start of their working year will get off to a very bad, or should that be, flat start when their cars won’t start.

“We are gearing up for the busiest breakdown day of the year in order to give our customers complete peace of mind should they be one of the unlucky ones. To avoid the ‘flat battery blues’ we recommend that drivers take their cars for a good run over the holiday period, perhaps to fill up with fuel. For those going back to work that Monday it would be advisable to make sure any cars that haven’t been used for several days start on New Year’s Day.

“That way, they will have plenty of time to sort the problem or call us out to help before the Monday morning rush gets underway.

“Experience tells us that it is often families with two or more vehicles that suffer most from flat batteries on the return to work after Christmas and New Year as they tend only to drive one over the festive period.

“At this time of year vehicles’ electrical systems have to work a lot harder because of needing to use lights and heated windows. The starter motor also has to work harder to turn over the engine on colder mornings, making a battery failure more likely.”

Here are the RAC’s top tips to give your car battery a happy Christmas:

  • Park your vehicle in a garage whenever possible
  • Ensure everything is switched off when you finish your journey including lights, heater, fan, heated rear windscreen, radio etc. Sat-navs and other devices can also drain the battery if left connected – every volt is precious first thing in the morning
  • Check the battery connections, ensuring that they are tight and free from any corrosion. And, don’t forget that battery acid is highly corrosive to skin and paint work
  • It’s worth getting your battery tested, particularly if it is over four years old
  • Take your vehicle for a decent drive to get your battery well charged, and get the engine to its proper operating temperature, before you really need it – ideally several days before. Don’t just check that it starts as this is likely to drain the battery more

If your battery does need replacing, visit the RAC online shop – racshop.co.uk/car-battery to find out which battery you need or call us on 0800 8620676. 

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About the RAC

The RAC provides complete peace of mind to 11m UK private and business drivers, whatever their motoring needs. Its services include:

The RAC also works to support the interests of its members and UK drivers on the most important motoring issues which it identifies via the annual RAC Report on Motoring and the RAC Opinion Panel. The Report on Motoring is the longest running analysis of driver opinion in the UK having been published every year since 1989.

For more information about the RAC, visit the RAC website.