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How To Protect Your Battery Against Extreme Weather

Power - by Joe Weber - updated on 11/4/2022

A couple and their child sitting in the back of a SUV looking at the snowy scene

As the cold weather approaches you need to make sure that you prepare your car or truck battery for the winter. Protecting your battery from the extreme cold that winter can bring is an important step in keeping your battery healthy for a long time.

Cold Temperatures Effects on Car Batteries

Cold weather is not only hard on you, it's hard on your car or truck's batteries. As the temperature starts to dip into the freezing zone there are a few things that will happen with your battery.

  • Reduced Capacity: As the temperature continues to fall during the winter months, the capacity of the battery also falls. Once the temperature reaches freezing, 32°F, the battery's capacity is reduced by roughly 20%. When the temperature reaches -22°F the capacity is reduced to 50%. The Batteries Plus exclusive X2Power AGM car and truck batteries, due to their superior design, will function at 50% capacity when the temperature outside is -40°F.
  • Slower Recharging: Batteries will recharge at a slower rate the colder the ambient temperature is.
  • Requires More Power: As the temperature drops, engine oil will begin to thicken causing the starter to work harder to start the engine. This requires additional power from the battery.

Can a Car Battery Freeze?

A question that is often asked whenever cold weather hits is "Can my car battery freeze solid?". While unlikely, this is definitely something that can occur if it's cold enough and you park your car outside.

The best way to avoid having your battery freeze is keeping your battery fully charged. A fully charged car battery won't freeze until the temperature outside reaches -76°F. The electrolyte solution is 25% sulfuric acid and 75% water so naturally it will freeze under the right conditions. Charging the battery causes a chemical reaction that mixes the liquids causing the solution to resist freezing.

Leaving a discharged battery out in the freezing temperature can freeze much easier and the electrolyte mixture hasn't fully mixed. This can start as soon as the temperature reaches 32°F. If a car battery does freeze it can cause the lead plates to warp and often cause shorts between the positive and negative plates. In most cases, this will end up in you replacing the battery.

The Top 3 Reasons for Batteries Drain in the Winter

  1. Human Error: This may not be a surprise to hear but many of the reasons your car battery dies in the winter can be due to forgetfulness. When exiting your vehicle make sure you turn off all the lights, unplug all of the accessories and turn off any electronics that can draw energy from the battery.
  2. Freezing Temperatures: As we've learned above freezing temperatures can dramatically reduce the capacity of the car's battery. This will very quickly leave with a dead or weak battery leaving you stranded.
  3. Loose Connections & Corrosion: There are two points of contact on the top of your battery, the positive and negative terminals. Corrosion or loose connections on your terminals will cause a poor connection to the electrical system of the car. This will cause unnecessary strain on the battery making it harder to start the car.

Clean Corrosion Early

It can be easy to remove corrosion from the top three reasons why batteries die in the winter. If you perform routine maintenance on your battery and check for corrosion it is possible to save yourself from headaches in the winter. If you don't have a terminal protection kit, you can use a mixture of baking soda and water and scrub the terminals with a wire brush to remove any corrosion. This phenomenon occurs most often with flooded batteries and non-sealed AGM batteries. Our X2Power line of premium sealed AGM car and truck batteries have a much lower risk of corrosion.

Learn more about how to keep your battery healthy during winter by reading our blog "How to Prevent Winter Wear on Your Car Battery  ".

Use Anti-Corrosion Compounds When New Batteries Are Installed

In any event, corrosion is the leading cause of early battery failure. One way to get a jump on the corrosion before it even has a chance to develop. When you get a new battery installed in your car or truck at Batteries Plus and upgrade to our Premier Installation service, our associates will apply terminal cleaner and anti-corrosion spray before installing terminal protectors while they install your new car battery.

As an added bonus for having this service completed, you get to keep (if your local laws allow it) the below items when you leave the store:

Tools To Help Keep Car Batteries Warm

There are a number of tools available to assist you with keeping your car or truck batteries warm in the winter.

Terminal Cleaners and Protectors

It is always helpful to have terminal cleaner and protector spray in your toolbox. If you had your battery installed at Batteries Plus and chose to have our Premier Installation service, you may already have some of this. Just spray it on your terminals and brush off the gunk to keep your connection clean and secure.

Terminal Brushes

While a normal wire brush will work, a terminal brush is designed specifically for battery terminals. With 360-degree bristles just scrub up and down a few times to get all of the corrosion off. Most even come equipped with a cylindrical brush on the opposite side to clean out the terminal clamps.

Battery Blankets

Wrapping your battery in a battery blanket when it gets really cold will help keep your battery warm during the winter. Essentially an industrial heating pad, a battery blanket plugs into an electrical outlet to provide ambient heat to make sure your car starts in the morning. Make sure you remove the blanket before you begin to drive the car.

Battery Maintainers

A battery maintainer is not only a tool to keep your battery at the optimum voltage to protect and extend the life of the battery, it is also a great way to keep your battery warm in the cold. As the maintainer is keeping the battery at the proper voltage, the battery will also be warming as it is charging.

Car and Truck Battery Solutions at Batteries Plus

If it's getting close to winter and you suspect that your battery may be starting to die, stop into your local Batteries Plus to have it tested free of charge. If your battery needs to be replaced, we have a large selection of car and truck batteries for your needs. Have your battery installed at Batteries Plus with our Premier Installation to have the added protection your battery needs to get through the winter.

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