It’s that time of the year when some of a driver’s worst nightmares can come true. One of them is walking up to the car after a snowfall, opening the door with the intention of starting it up before clearing off the snow . . . and getting no response upon turning the key or pressing the start button.
How to Prevent your Car Battery from Dying this Winter
Why do car batteries die in the winter?
A dead battery can be the consequence of one or many factors. The most common is age. Over time, batteries tend to weaken and lose their ability to hold a charge. In fact, most lead-acid batteries suffer from self-discharge, which can worsen as they get older. Extreme temperatures, such as those experienced in winter, exacerbate this phenomenon. Since starting a vehicle in winter requires more amperage, or power, than in summer, a weaker battery may be unable to turn over the engine to start it up.
If the engine does start, but with difficulty, consider that a warning. As we drive about in winter, we tend to have numerous accessories working, such as the heater, wipers, window defroster, headlights, and so on. These functions give the battery quite a workout.
Park your car indoors if possible
Ambient temperatures have a huge effect on your car’s battery and engine, among other components. A heated indoor parking spot will negate the effects of the cold on the battery and engine oil. If parking indoors isn’t possible, consider using an engine block heater. Its job is to keep parts of the engine warmer. It also warms the engine oil so that it remains fluid. Oil thickens in colder temperatures, meaning the starter motor requires more power from the battery to turn the flywheel.
Don’t just idle your car—drive it
Idling your car for a long period will warm up the cabin, but it won’t recharge the battery after a rough start. Driving will “activate” the car’s charging system and supply the battery with a much-needed top-up. A trip around the block won’t be enough, though. It’s best to drive around for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
Testing a battery is simple enough. If you own a battery tester or multimeter, you can verify your battery’s charge as well as the performance of your car’s charging system. The better plan, however, would be to get the charging system tested and inspected by a mechanic. During your next trip to your preferred service garage, ask them to check the charging system’s ability to recharge the battery, test the battery’s state of charge, and, while they’re at it, verify the starter’s power draw on start-up.
Booster packs vs. trickle chargers
A booster pack can be a life saver in the event of a dead battery. Connecting the pack’s cables and clamps to the battery and waiting a few minutes may give it just enough power to turn the engine over. The clear advantage of a booster pack like the Clore Automotive ES500 over booster cables is that you can get going on your own without any help.
As its name suggests, a trickle charger or battery maintainer, on the other hand, maintains a battery’s state of charge. A smart charger/maintainer such as the Clore Automotive smart charger keeps the battery in good health thanks to its automatic multi-stage charging sequence.
All batteries come with a warranty, but it’s not automatic. While it covers normal use, the warranty may be voided in the event of damage, improper use, poor maintenance, or a faulty charging system. Warranties can range from three to five years and cover a certain amount of mileage. In some cases, the guaranties include a free-replacement grace period as well. Typically, all this information will be clearly marked on the battery itself.
Should you find yourself in need of replacing your car’s battery, opt for one with plenty of CCAs, or cold cranking amps. CCAs indicate how much power the battery has in order to start an engine in cold temperatures. If anything, never purchase a battery with a low CCA.