Dead car battery while on campus? UAB can fix that — for free

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MARS streamJosh Greene, parking services technician with UAB TransportationLock your keys in your car in Express Lot 4 or run out of gas driving down 10th Avenue South? Don’t worry about calling your roadside assistance company — UAB Transportation’s Motorist Assistance Roadside Service program, known as MARS, can help you resolve the issue fast and for free.

MARS is a no-cost service available to all UAB employees, students and visitors, including those at UAB Hospital and on-campus clinics, 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m. weekdays, except holidays. A quick phone call to 205-975-6277 can get you help for car trouble such as a dead battery, a flat tire, an empty gas tank or locked-in car keys.

Call MARS at 205-975-6277 for help with dead batteries, flat tires, empty gas tanks or locked cars.

From April to June, MARS technicians resolved more than 560 service calls, according to Transportation Demand Manager Brian Atkinson. More than 50% of those were to charge a dead battery, 25% were to retrieve keys and about 14% were to put air in tires. Those numbers reflect national averages for car problems, according to data from national travel company AAA.

“We live in a busy world and UAB is a busy campus, which means that occasionally, we all have mishaps like leaving our headlights on or forgetting to grab the keys before we lock our cars,” said Andre Davis, director of UAB Transportation. “Our MARS team is on-hand to help resolve the issue and get you on your way.”

Tips from a tech

While MARS is at your service on UAB’s campus, it’s important to prepare for roadside problems that could happen elsewhere, says Josh Greene, who has worked as a parking services technician with UAB Transportation for more than two years. Greene helps dozens of MARS callers each week.

Check your spare tire.
If your new car purchase doesn’t come with a spare, purchase one and store it for emergencies. Many newer vehicles only come with tire-inflator kits. And if your car has a built-in spare tire, ensure it’s actually useable, Greene recommends.

“Nine out of 10 times, the spare tire in someone’s car will be old and flat,” Greene said.

Also, drivers should check their tire pressure monthly to ensure they are inflated to vehicle standards, which are outlined in the owner’s manual.

Check your battery as it ages.
Vehicle batteries only last around three to four years, Greene says, and AAA recommends drivers begin testing their vehicle battery once it reaches three years of age or older.

Greene specifically advises monitoring for corrosion, which is indicated by a powdery light-blue substance on the battery’s terminal. Shops such as Advance Auto Parts offer free battery checks. He also recommends checking your battery charge once a quarter or each time you change your oil.

Keep an eye on your keys.
Locking keys inside a car is one of the hardest issues to prevent, Greene says, because it is accidental. For those who are especially forgetful, placing a spare key in a magnetic lockbox under the car or hiding one behind the license plate might be a good idea.

“Other than that, just make sure that when you exit your vehicle, your keys are in your possession,” he said.

AAA recommends that drivers who use smart keys or keyless entry fobs avoid bringing them in contact with water and ensure they replace the battery whenever necessary.

Fill up your tank.
This one is easy, Greene says: If your gas needle is inching toward empty, it means it’s time to fill up.

“If you’re low on gas, do not chance it,” Greene emphasized. “Go ahead and just go to the gas station.”