Jack Dreyer | Tuesday 8th November 2022 11:00am
Many things can go wrong with your car during the winter but battery failure is one of the most common issues, with more breakdowns being reported due to flat batteries than any other problem. Winter takes its toll on your car battery and when the temperature drops below zero degrees celsius a fully-charged battery will only have around two-thirds of its power available. As a result, a battery over five years old will struggle to start in these conditions due to a reduced capability to hold a charge.
To find out why batteries struggle so much in the cold and how to avoid a flat battery, read on.
Winter vs car batteries
When you turn the keys in the ignition, the starter motor needs a lot of amperes to start itself. Normally, the battery can provide the right amount without a second thought, but if your battery is cold and/or old, it might not work so well.
Temperatures below freezing can reduce the capacity of any battery — new or old — causing it to not supply the starter motor properly.
In the summer, however, temperatures are more favourable and mild. In British summers especially, the warm temperatures are conducive to strong battery health.
In extremely cold conditions, the battery can actually freeze since it holds its charge using a liquid electrolyte solution. In most cases, though, low temperatures merely reduce the ability of the electrolyte solution to transfer power.
Tips to avoid a flat battery in cold weather
If you are worried your car won't start this winter due to battery failure, there are a number of things you can do to help avoid this:
Checks as your battery ages
If your battery is over three years old, it is wise to get it checked regularly by an expert as they weaken with age. If your battery is not holding a charge for as long as it used to, that is a tell-tale sign that you need to replace it soon.
Car batteries are stamped with a code which indicates the date of manufacture, but not only is the code hard to find without removing your battery, it also gives no indication as to how long the battery has been fitted to the vehicle. Most batteries are designed to last between 5 and 10 years so if you have owned your car for a long time and don’t recall ever changing your battery, it might be time to replace it, before it one day lets you down.
Don’t leave it until your car starts to fail, book in for a free battery health check with Kwik Fit today.
Check for corrosion
Check for corrosion on the battery terminals, ensure these are fitted tightly and the battery seated properly. Corrosion is caused when battery acid is able to escape due to a faulty connection. This results in corrosive material forming around the terminals which can prevent a clean connection. A build-up of dirt on the battery may also prevent a good, clean connection. Inspect the battery regularly and clean any dirt and residue away from the terminals.
Park your vehicle inside
If you have access to an indoor parking space like a garage, park your car in there when it is not in use to reduce its exposure to the cold. You might also want to consider buying a car cover if you can’t avoid on-street parking.
Start your car or charge your battery regularly
Car batteries naturally lose their charge over time so even if you don’t use your car frequently, make sure you start the engine up regularly to prolong the life of the battery and maintain its charging capability.
If you use your vehicle for a lot of short trips, it is advised that you charge your battery at least once a week when it is really cold — especially if it is older than 3 years.
Turn off power drains
When parking, double-check that you have switched off anything that might drain your battery when stationary, such as wipers, lights (interior and boot), the radio, and the heater. As an added tip, try to avoid using the heater when you don’t need it as it also drains fuel too!
You should also minimise the use of these accessories when starting and idling the car so that more power is directed from the alternator to the battery and essential electrical systems.
Invest in a battery booster
Sometimes, battery outages can’t be helped. But should the worst happen, you can prepare yourself with a battery booster: a rechargeable device that helps reinvigorate your battery quickly and without the need for jump leads.
Free battery check from Kwik Fit
Don’t leave it until your car won’t start — at Kwik Fit, our fully-trained technicians can carry out a free and thorough check of your battery starting and charging systems using the latest Bosch testing equipment. We’ll check your battery’s performance against the manufacturer’s specification and let you know of any issues, informing you of any parts that need replacing now or in the near future. Should you need to replace your battery, we stock a wide range of car and van batteries for all major makes and models of vehicle.
Contact your nearest Kwik Fit for a free battery check - no appointment necessary. Looking to replace your battery? View our range of car batteries and buy online.
Need more than a battery check? Why not book in for an MOT to get a full vehicle check.
Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.
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