Battery Care

Dear Tracy,

As the temperatures are getting colder,  I want to make sure I don’t get stranded in the cold with a dead battery. I was wondering if it is necessary to perform  any maintenance on my car’s battery. Is it true that car batteries run out of charge more quickly in winter?

Allison S.

Dear Allison,

Before every winter driving season it is a good idea to take your car in for seasonal maintenance and inspection. Part of this should include a test of your battery. It may also be necessary to clean the battery tray and terminal posts. Your auto service expert may also spray the terminals with a protective spray to prevent corrosion. Along with battery maintenance, your technician  can check your alternator and starting system to make sure everything is in good condition and will not inhibit your car’s battery performance.

To answer your second question,  technically your car battery does not  drain faster in the winter. It is true, however, that extremely cold temperatures do have an impact on battery performance. Cold substantially decreases the effectiveness of chemical reactions within the battery and also increase the battery’s internal resistance. This causes a reduction in cranking power, which is problematic because cars need an increased amount of cranking power in cold weather when motor oil is thicker.

You can reduce the likelihood of being stuck with a dead battery by watching for the signs of a low or dying battery. Your battery could be failing If notice the starter turns slowly, or alternator wiring problems can prevent the battery from fully charging. If you notice your headlights look dim at idle and but become brighter when you accelerate the engine, this could indicate a battery problem. Lastly, check the purchase date on the battery itself. Somewhere on the battery case there should be a sticker that displays its expected life. Avoid problems by replacing it when it reaches the end of its expected life.