- by Bryan Veldboom - updated on 12/29/2021
Winter weather is hard on car batteries. If you haven't taken the right precautions, you may find yourself with a dead battery the next time you try starting up your car. A dead car battery is never fun, but during the winter months, it can actually be dangerous. Fortunately, you can avoid this unpleasant scenario with some basic preventative maintenance. Learn how cold affects the battery in your car or truck. Plus, get useful tips on how to help keep your car battery working during the winter.
The colder the weather, the harder your battery must work in order to crank the engine. There are a couple of reasons for this. For starters, cold causes the oil inside your engine to become thicker. This makes it much harder to turn over the engine. In fact, in low temperatures, starting an engine can take up to twice as much current as what's needed under normal operating conditions.
Cold weather also slows down the chemical reactions happening inside your battery. This causes the battery to produce less electrical current. So, basically, your battery has less current on hand to perform a job that requires more current than usual.
If an auto battery is discharged low enough, it can start freezing at 32°F. There are a number of things that can cause auto batteries to discharge, including damage to its cells, poor connections or a charging system that isn't doing its job. A fully charged battery will not freeze until somewhere around -76°F. So, obviously, the best way to keep your battery from freezing is to be sure to keep it charged up. For information on how to recover a frozen battery, read our blog entitled "How Do I Keep My Car Battery Warm in the Winter."
If you live in an area that experiences both hot summers and cold winters, the two can work in tandem to damage your battery. High temperatures can cause water to evaporate out of the battery's electrolyte, while also causing the battery to corrode. This decreases the battery's overall capacity, weakening its ability to start an engine. Then, when winter hits, this weakened battery will have an even harder time starting your engine due to the issues discussed above.
Follow these tips to help beat the cold and keep your car or truck battery performing at its very best.
Having your battery tested is a great way to see if it's viable enough to get you through the winter. This is especially important if your vehicle battery is over three years old. Where can you get your battery tested? Batteries Plus provides free battery testing. Just stop by any one of our 700+ locations and one of our associates will perform a cold cranking power test (CCA test). This test measures the amount of power (amps) the battery is able to produce for a half minute when the temperature is 0°F, while maintaining a minimum terminal voltage of 7.2 volts. We'll also check your alternator and starter to make sure that they're working properly. The test only takes a few minutes to complete and can help you avoid being stranded in the cold.
What do you do if the test reveals that your battery is past its prime? Replace it with a new battery, of course. Batteries Plus has dozens of replacement batteries for cars and trucks. Plus, our stores offer free installation on most makes and models (valid at most locations). You can even schedule your arrival time online.
If you live in an area that experiences both high heat and extreme cold, you may want to consider changing to a better battery. AGM batteries are much better at withstanding the negative impacts of both hold and cold. They also last longer, recharge faster and have higher voltage outputs. Learn more about AGM batteries and how AGM batteries perform in cold weather.
Another tip to help keep your battery working this winter is to park it inside. Protecting the battery from the freezing temperatures and the frigid winds will help keep its power level up. If parking in a garage isn't possible and it's going to sit outside in the weather for several hours, start it up a few times and let the engine run.
Corrosion appears as a colorful buildup on the connectors and terminals of your battery. Corrosion hurts your battery's performance by limiting the amount of power that can travel from the battery to the engine. This makes it more difficult for the battery to start your engine. Combine that with cold weather and your battery has to work even harder. Corrosion also impairs your vehicle's charging system. This makes it more difficult for your battery to recharge.
You can prevent corrosion by applying an anti-corrosion spray or a battery terminal protector washer to the battery's terminals. More helpful information can be found in our blog entitled "What is Car Battery Corrosion and How Do You Prevent It?"
Is your auto battery having a hard time holding a charge? Pick up a battery charger. Using a charger will help restore your battery to its optimal charge. This is especially useful if you have a vehicle that you don't drive for long periods of time.
When selecting a battery charger, be sure that the model you choose matches the voltage and chemistry of your battery. You should also be sure to monitor the charging process to make sure that the battery isn't becoming overcharged or use a battery maintainer that will shut off by itself when the battery reaches its optimum charge.
Even if your battery is doing great, it's still a good idea to be prepared for the unexpected. Having a pair of jumper cables on hand will allow you to jump start your vehicle if your battery dies. Learn more about jumper cables in our blog "What are the Best Type of Jumper Cables for My Car or Truck?"
When it comes to restarting a dead battery, a portable jump pack is an even better option. Jump packs allow you to jump start your vehicle without using a second vehicle.
Batteries Plus has over 30,000 batteries and trained associates there to install them, so make us your automotive battery source. Visit your local Batteries Plus store to have your car or truck battery and electrical system tested for FREE - no appointment is necessary! We also offer additional essentials in our Automotive Center. Stock up on windshield wiper blades, auto fuses, flashlights and more.
Want to learn more about car batteries? Read our blog titled "How Many Cold Cranking Amps Do I Need for Cold Weather?" Or, find out "What Should Be In My Vehicle Emergency Kit?"