All batteries hate cold weather — period. Especially a car battery, as its chief purpose is to provide the power to rotate your vehicle’s engine so it can cough to life. This is no easy task, and if it’s hovering around zero degrees, like it is now here in 303, that task is extra hard.
As a photographer, when we have to go out on location in cold weather, we keep our spare camera batteries in our interior shirt pocket up against our chest. This keeps that little battery warm and ready for duty. But if your car has to sleep outside, it’s not so lucky.
How do I keep my car battery happy when it’s cold outside?
There are a few things you can do however, to make sure that it’s up to the task. For starters (ha ha!) make sure it’s the right one for your vehicle. Certain vehicles can have several different engine options, and this plays a part in determining which car battery it needs. Also, how old is it? Batteries in this area average about four years before they begin to decline. Is it clean and corrosion-free? Batteries LOVE corrosion — we call it science working against you. Too much corrosion on its terminals can delay and possibly prevent starting.
How much cojones does it have? We test a lot of batteries and will have readings like 12.6 volts (perfect) and a cojones factor of 92% — a very passing grade. On the other hand, last week, our IT guy, Nick, was experiencing trouble with his vehicle’s battery so after a few jump starts, it came to us. What we discovered was that although his battery had a static voltage of 12.2 volts (decent/marginal) it’s available oomph (cojones) was at 13% — not enough. It was just old and worn down, which is something that happens to car batteries over time.
How do I know if my car battery is about to kick the bucket?
A typical car battery will last around four to five years with average driving, but there are things you can look for to be sure your battery is in peak condition. If you notice any of these things, a weak battery (i.e. no cojones) might be the reason:
- Some of your electronic accessories don’t work right
- Your car horn sounds weird
- The engine takes longer to start
- The headlights are dimmer than normal
- The dome light is dim
If you are concerned about your car battery, there are some things you can look for under the hood:
- Is the battery case cracked or swollen?
- Is it more than three years old (check the date sticker or the code)?
- If your car has been running, does the battery smell like rotten eggs (sulfer)?
If you notice any of these things, it’s a good time to change your battery. And luckily, car batteries are not that expensive so it’s best to replace them when they start to go bad as opposed to waiting until they completely die and risk being stuck somewhere, especially in the winter.
Some more tips for keeping your car battery working in tip-top shape
After you get your new car battery, there are some things you can do to keep it happy and running longer.
- Make sure your car battery is tightly fastened. A loose battery can vibrate and cause damage like short circuits, which will reduce the battery’s life.
- Turn off all lights when you leave your car. Leaving lights on is the quickest way to drain a battery.
- Avoid short trips when possible as they don’t give your car enough time to fully charge the battery.
- Minimize heat exposure. While the cold can kill your battery, so can extreme heat. So find your car some shade during the summer months.
- Keep your car battery clean. Corrosion buildup on the terminals can affect how your battery works. Baking soda and water is a good way to clean them.
- Limit the use of electronics when your car is idling. Things like the air conditioner or electronics plugged into the car can drain the battery and your engine isn’t charging it while you are idling.
- Keep the rest of your car in good working order and don’t leave it unused for long periods of time. All the parts work together so taking care of the whole car will help keep your car battery healthy.
So, whatever the case, it’s best to make sure your car battery will start wherever you are and whatever the temperature is. So, on that note, bring it to us and let us check it out.
Cheers, and Happy Motoring!
The Automotive Revival crew