Winter Car Battery Care

Dear Tracy,

Do car batteries require any maintenance? I have heard that car batteries run out of energy more quickly in the winter and I want to do all that I can to make sure I am not left stranded in the cold.

Lucy M.

Dear Lucy,

You are very wise to be thinking about battery care, now that the weather is taking an icy turn! It is always best to have maintenance and inspection checks done on everything, including your battery, before winter strikes.

Ask your auto care professional to test and inspect your car’s battery.  If needed, they may also clean the battery tray and terminal posts. Often the terminals are sprayed with a protective solution to inhibit corrosion. Along with the battery check, your auto maintenance professional will inspect your alternator and starting system to be sure everything affecting the performance of your battery is working as it should be.

As for batteries running out of energy faster in the winter, it is true that extreme cold can have an adverse impact on battery performance. Cold temperatures inhibit the power of chemical reactions within the battery and increase the battery’s internal resistance, both of which can cause a reduction in cranking power. Since motor oil tends to get thicker at lower temperatures, engines need an increased amount of cranking power in cold weather.

Watch for the signs of a low or dying battery, so you can address the problem before you end up stranded. A starter that is slow to turn may mean your battery is failing or that alternator wiring problems are keeping the battery from charging fully. Dim headlights that  become brighter when you accelerate the engine is another battery problem sign. A simple thing you can to is to look for a purchase date on the battery itself – the battery case should have a decal listing its expected life. The battery should be replaced if it is approaching the end of its expected use life.

Last but not least, always carry a set of jumper cables in your vehicle so that you will be prepared if you ever do have to deal with a dead battery.