Battery Health: Why it pays to check your battery in the winter

Battery Health: Why it pays to check your battery in the winter

There are three main contributing factors that lead to batteries dying in the winter: reduced capacity, increased draw from starter motors, and increased draw from other accessories like headlights and wipers which tend to get used more often in winter. However, an aging battery can start to have trouble in the colder winter months, temperatures at or below freezing rapidly reduce the capacity of a battery to produce energy, sometimes low enough it can’t handle the demands from the starter motor causing you to have “flat battery” situation on a cold morning.
So what can you do to prevent a flat battery situation….

1. Understand what causes a low or flat battery

  • Leaving exterior/interior lights, or other electrical devices, switched on when the ignition is off.
  • Frequent short trips, which don’t give the battery enough time to reach full charge.
  • Using too many electronic devices, especially when the ignition is first switched on.
  • Extreme hot or cold weather can reduce the amount of energy a battery generates.
  • Old age. Car batteries should be replaced every five years, even if they’ve been well maintained.
  • A defective charging system (e.g. faulty alternator).
  • Inadequate maintenance. You should check the battery at the same interval as you check the oil – every fortnight.

2. Spot the signs of a flat or failing battery

  • Dim headlights – Are the headlights dim at idle, but then brighten when you rev the engine?
  • Struggling starter motor – Does the engine struggle to start when you switch on the ignition?
  • Change in sound at idle – When you first turn the ignition and switch on an electrical component, does the car’s idling sound change?
  • No sound at all – If battery charge is totally depleted you may not hear anything?
  • Car refusing to unlock – Not unlocking via remote central locking, are the ignition lights on the dashboard failing to illuminate?

3. Help your battery out during winter

  • Switch off items like the lights, wipers, heater and radio before turning off your engine at the end of a journey. This prevents any unnecessary drain on the battery the next time you start up.
  • Keep your car in a garage when it’s cold as low temperatures make it harder for the engine to turn over, putting strain on the battery.
  • Use your car – if you don’t use your car often, make sure you ‘exercise’ the battery every now and again by going for a longer drive as this will charge it up again.
  • Check that there are no interior lights, including boot lights, left on – or any accessories such as phone chargers left plugged in
  • Get your battery properly tested, particularly if it is over three years old

Our Top 5 Tips

1. Keep driving

Batteries are subjected to most strain when doing a high number of short journeys – a short trip does not give the alternator enough chance to recharge the battery to its previous state. Try to do some longer journeys to give the car a chance to recharge itself. Alternatively, invest in an external battery charger.

2. Switch off

Modern cars are packed with energy sapping technology, which, if left on, will work to drain the battery very quickly.  Lights and heaters are the biggest threats for flattening a battery. Items plugged into a USB or 12V supply will also quickly drain the battery’s charge. Check your interior lights, too – leaving them on overnight could be a costly mistake on an already  poorly battery.

3. Service your car

A poorly maintained vehicle can put extra strain on the battery – from under inflated tyres, to an overworked engine. For cracked windscreen, auto glass repair companies can give you professional assistance in fixing them. When getting your vehicle serviced request for a check on the alternator, starting system and charging systems. If any of these are malfunctioning, it could result in the battery being overcharged, undercharged or in some cases not charged at all – all of which will affect battery life.

4. Don’t ignore it

A battery won’t magically regain charge; if it fails to start the engine, stop trying, as you’ll only flatten it further for no reason. Completely flattening a battery damages it.

5. Be ready to jump start

In an emergency, you may need to jump start the car. Keep a set of jump leads in the boot and learn the procedure. If you have broken down in a dangerous place – next to a junction, for example – try to get the car somewhere safer before continuing. See if some passers-by will help push.

If you are concerned about the condition of your battery,  or charge system we offer a free battery & alternator health check to help put your mind at ease. Call today on 01692 670271 to find out more or arrange a visit.  
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