If you live in Arizona, you likely appreciate the fact that you get to avoid the significant snowfall and seriously cold weather that the northern half of the country gets during the winter. That doesn’t mean you can avoid the cold altogether, however. So how does cold weather affect car batteries?
With nighttime temperatures sometimes plummeting to freezing or below during the winter months, you might find it a little harder to get up and going in the morning. So does your car … just take note of how its battery acts and sounds when you go to start up your vehicle on a cold, crisp morning.
How does cold weather affect car batteries?
Without a properly functioning battery, your vehicle won’t have the electricity it needs to start its engine, nor will it be able to run other components that require power. With batteries showing optimal performance at temperatures between 30 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, lower outside temperatures can be detrimental to the battery’s performance, especially when below freezing.
If you’ve noticed your battery acting a little sluggish in the winter, here are two good reasons why:
- Thicker oil – As the temperature drops, the engine oil thickens, causing the battery to have to work harder to do its job.
- Slower chemical reactions – Batteries undergo internal chemical reactions in order to produce the electricity that is required of them. When the outside air temperature is colder, molecules slow down and chemical reactions occur much more slowly, making it difficult for the battery to keep up to speed.
Helpful tips for making your car battery last longer
The average vehicle battery can last anywhere from three to seven years. Its actual lifespan, however, is largely determined by the stressors it encounters, especially temperature extremes. Arizona summers, known for high temperatures, can do even more damage to a car battery than the cold experienced during winter months.
Once you’ve researched, purchased, and installed a quality battery in your vehicle, follow these tips to help extend its lifespan and improve its performance:
- Keep it clean – Battery terminals are prone to corrosion. Keep them clean and have them regularly checked by an auto repair professional.
- Garage parking – Storing your vehicle in the garage when not in use can help protect it from the elements and temperature extremes.
- Charging “just right” – Car batteries are internally charged via your vehicle’s alternator. Have your favorite mechanic check to make sure that it’s being charged at the appropriate rate – over or undercharging can cause permanent damage and affect the battery’s performance.
- Use the appropriate battery – If you live in an area that is prone to colder temperatures, make sure you have a battery that is meant to handle that. Cold weather batteries are often differentiated with an “N” or “North” on them, while ones labeled with “S” or “South” are better suited to hot climates.
When to replace a car battery
Unfortunately, some vehicle owners wait until their car won’t start at all, or they’re stranded somewhere before they realize that their battery is not up to snuff. Instead of being one of those people, pay attention to early warning signs that your battery is in trouble. These include a bad odor coming from the battery, or it being sluggish to start.
When in doubt, and as a regular preventative maintenance procedure, have your local auto repair shop test your battery at regular intervals. The last thing you want is to be stranded with a dead battery when the cold weather hits!