The Washington Times-Herald

Local News

January 25, 2014

Car battery care in extreme weather

Few things can be more frustrating than jumping into the driver’s seat on a frosty morning, turning the key in the ignition and failing to hear the engine roar to life. Frigid weather can cause trouble with a car’s battery. Some drivers do not understand why, but getting the facts can help people avoid having to deal with dead batteries on cold winter days.

Cold temperatures wreak havoc on batteries because they slow the chemical reaction inside of the battery. Batteries work by combining lead plates with lead dioxide and sulfuric acid to create electrons. While batteries can function under myriad conditions, the cold weather tends to degrade high-quality batteries and may render sub-par batteries useless. The cold weather can cause the fluid in the battery to freeze and lose function. A battery that is frozen will not hold a charge, and, as a result, the car won’t start.

There are various ways to protect a battery from failure in the cold, and some of them involve taking precautionary measures even before the arrival of cold weather.

n Assess the age of your battery. If your battery is old, now may be the time to replace it. Batteries differ in how long they last, but many last anywhere from five to 10 years. If your car is still running on its original battery and your car is several years old, it may be a good idea to get a new battery before the end of winter. Battery size will not necessarily provide better starting. It’s important to buy the correct battery for the make of your car, which can usually be found inside of the owner’s manual.

n Verify that there is no corrosion. Corrosion can prevent a car from starting just as much as a worn-out battery. Corrosion is caused by a faulty connection that allows battery acid to escape and corrode surrounding areas. Regularly inspect the battery to keep abreast of issues that may cause corrosion. Carefully clean away any corrosive residue that has formed and make sure the battery is correctly seated.

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