AutosHas your battery died yet? Here's how to help it survive the winter

Has your battery died yet? Here's how to help it survive the winter

Battery in the car
Battery in the car
Images source: © Autokult | Marcin Łobodziński

3:39 AM EST, November 22, 2023, updated: 2:35 AM EST, November 23, 2023

As temperatures drop, cars are taking the brunt of the cold. Ice scrapers and defrosters are coming back into frequent use as cars freeze over. You might only think about your battery when your car refuses to start. But remember this one thing that can help it survive the harsh winter.

I typically respond to remarks like "my battery died again" with a question: when did you last charge it? The usual answer is never. And that's primarily where the issue lies. Especially when winter starts to set in, we remember everything, tires, wiper fluid, scrapers, snow brushes, defrosters - but forget about the battery. What should you do to prepare it for this challenging season? The solution is simple: charge it.

Charge your battery before it dies

You most likely didn't charge it in the spring (after the winter), and even less likely in the summer, because in the summer, a dip in battery performance is less noticeable. You'll feel it in the winter, not because the cold weather drained it but because the past heat exhausted it. You'll only notice it during the cold weather when the battery has to work harder. How does this happen?

At high temperatures, the chemical processes in the battery speed up twice as much with every increase in temperature by around 18 degrees Fahrenheit. This unfortunately also speeds up battery deterioration, specifically corroding the grids. High temperatures cause the battery to age faster in the summer than in the winter. And this occurs just before a crucial phase in the autumn-winter season when optimal battery performance is vital. So it's not that batteries 'die in the winter' because of low temperatures, but because they worked hard all summer, wore out, and now the cold weather reveals the damage.

The best way to improve your battery's condition is through regular charging. During this process, the electrolyte mixes, reducing corrosion processes and preparing the battery for harsh conditions, for instance, when winter starts. Before charging, top off the electrolyte, if technically possible, and clean the terminals.

Don’t charge your battery in the cold

The optimal temperature for a car battery is about 68°F, and that's the ideal temperature to charge it. This is possible at home or in a heated garage. Charging a battery in the cold is inefficient as the internal resistance increases remarkably in negative temperatures. This results in the battery barely improving in condition after setting.

If you want to charge a battery left installed in your vehicle (which is most convenient) but lacks a heated garage, you could drive to someone who does (a friend or family member) and use it for a few hours. Alternatively, a workshop would suffice, where they can check your battery condition and the vehicle's charging system efficiency while charging.

Professional battery charging, including removal or entering the workshop hall, costs around $13-$40. When you consider that a new battery can exceed $130, it's quite the cost-saving alternative.

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