With below-freezing temperatures soon upon us—at least in the early mornings—batteries will need to be in good operating condition to start vehicle engines.
“When the temperature is below freezing, it only generates 60 percent of its current charge,” said Dusty Holcomb, AAA Carolinas vice-president of Automotive Services. “We always see a spike in requests for emergency road service when the temperature drops significantly.”
One-third of calls for service on one morning in early January involved dead batteries, said Judson E. Paterson, field support manager who oversees the motor club’s battery operations.
Some cold weather tips:
• Get your battery charge checked in the daytime before overnight temperatures fall and every time you have the vehicle serviced or oil changed.
• Keep the car in a garage overnight, if available.
• Turn off all accessories at night before turning the ignition switch off.
• Make sure battery case and brackets are free of corrosion.
• Check the tension and condition of your fan belt. If it is loose, it can affect the battery’s ability to recharge.
• Watch and listen for battery-drain warning signs. If headlights dim when idling but brighten when you rev the engine, it could signal an electrical system problem. If you hear a grinding or clicking when you turn the ignition to the crank position, your battery may be weak
• If your battery does not initially turn the engine over on the first try in the morning, turn the ignition key on and wait one minute before cranking the engine again. This gives the battery chemicals time to jell and energize the battery terminals.
“Batteries may not always give warning signs before they fail,” Patterson said. “The average lifespan of a battery is 3 to 5 years, with batteries in hotter climates lasting closer to three years, but, when it comes to batteries, one size does not fit all.
"Talk to your technician about the specific driving conditions of your vehicle (hilly, level, sandy, etc.), the climate you drive in, so that your battery will have adequate capacity for your needs."