Car Batteries Battling The Elements

Cold weather is especially hard on car batteries. According to AAA’s Automotive Research Center, at 0°F, a car’s battery loses about 60 percent of its strength and at 32°F it loses 35 percent. During cold temperatures starting an engine can take up to twice as much current as needed under normal conditions.

It is advisable to have your battery tested, as well as your starting and charging systems prior to hitting the road during deep cold of winter. For example, during the year-end holiday travel period (Dec. 21 –January 1) AAA Mid-Atlantic predicts that it will respond 20,000 roadside battery calls in its service area stretching from Virginia to New Jersey.

Surprisingly, although heat causes more damage to batteries than cold weather, starting a vehicle in cold weather puts more strain on it. The cumulative impact of various factors over time allows cold weather to ultimately end the useful life of a battery. Warning signs that you are at risk for a battery related breakdown include the following:

You hear a grinding or clicking sound when you turn on the ignition

Your vehicle cranks slowly when attempting to start

Your headlights dim when idling but brighten when the engine is revved

Your battery is more than three (3) years old

Car batteries are an electrochemical process so they have inherent limitations and are impacted by endless variables impacting their performance. For example, the life of a battery depends on the climate you live in, length of time electronic accessories are plugged into your vehicle, and how far and often you drive your vehicle.

“The life span of an automotive battery has historically been defined as 3-5 years. However, with the increase in on-board computers and more demanding electrical systems within vehicles the full life is moving towards 3 years,” says Jack Reynolds, Battery Program Manager, AAA Mid-Atlantic.

While three to five years is a typical life span, various internal and environmental conditions impact a battery’s long term health. Periodic inspection, testing, and cleaning are suggested and monitoring the use of accessories and electronic devices when your car is not running can help maximize its longevity.

When your car is not running, the battery continues to supply power to the clock, the anti-theft system, and the other conveniences in modern cars. Accessories, like smartphones and tablets, can add to the drain.

AAA Mid-Atlantic offers battery replacement service through its roadside assistance operations and at select Approved Auto Repair (AAR) facilities throughout the region. To request service call 1-800-AAAHELP or for a battery price quote visit https://midatlantic.