Published On: Thu, Nov 9th, 2017

Can the Cold Weather Really Harm Car Batteries?

Maintenance and proper care of our vehicles is a standard practice and something that must be factored into the cost of ownership when purchasing any car. From one-time investments that improve vehicle performance to recurring inspections and tune-ups, making sure that your vehicle is at its best is essential to long-term performance.

Snow covered houses

photo/ Fabio Piccini via pixabay.com

Some parts of a vehicle – the battery, for example – can require multiple replacements over its lifetime. Batteries are particularly vulnerable to many different factors and how long they last can be affected by numerous things.

With that being said, many are asking whether cold weather actually has a negative impact on car batteries. Today, we’ll answer that question and provide some insight into the situation.


  • How Cold Weather Affects Vehicles


Before we address the direct effects of cold weather on car batteries, it’s important to take a quick look at how the weather can impact your car as a whole. Virtually every aspect of non-battery car performance can be affected by lower temperatures.

For starters, think about the fluids in your vehicle. Most fluids used in automobiles are designed to operate at high temperatures; after all, when the car is running, temperatures through the engine and beyond tend to be at least twice as hot as the average summer day. During cold weather, these fluids will thicken, which means substances such as oil and transmission fluid will not flow as freely. This can result in overheating (oddly enough) and damage to mechanical parts.

Tyre pressure is another important consideration. As temperatures change, tyre pressure can fluctuate. In the summer, it expands and increases. In the winter, tyre pressure naturally decreases. This can cause underperformance in fuel economy and can even lead to a premature flat tyre.

Salt and water from the roads themselves also play a role. As salt and water stick to your vehicle, it can slowly erode the paint and even cause mechanical damage to exposed mechanical portions of the car.


  • The Effects of Cold on Batteries


So now that we know cold weather does impact car performance, what can be said for its impact on batteries? As you’d probably imagine, the cold does have a big impact on car batteries.

In fact, extreme temperature fluctuations, in general, have negative effects on lead-acid car batteries, but cold weather most notably causes the most negative ones. The reason behind this is simple. Car batteries can lose half of their power capacity at -30 degrees Celsius when compared to normal temperatures. This is enough to dramatically reduce – or outright eliminate – a vehicle’s ability to start up and run.

In a one-time situation where temperatures drop, the reduction in battery capacity is only temporary. However, over sustained periods of time, the fluctuations in temperature can cause the battery to slowly lose its power capacity regardless of temperature.


  • Heat Impacts Battery Life, Too


Most people have gone out on a cold winter morning to start their cars, only to have the battery refuse to provide enough power. What many people do not know is that heat can have just as big of an impact on battery performance – if not more – as the cold.

Whereas cold can reduce the short-term performance of a battery, heat actually improves that performance – with a catch. While hotter temperatures will improve battery performance then and there, it actually damages the battery and reduces its lifespan. In essence, heat allows you to tap into more energy but for a shorter amount of time.

This is why it is common to also see cars alongside the streets during the summer months. In many cases, it’s not a radiator or flat tyre: it’s an exhausted battery.


  • How to Improve Cold Weather Performance


Now that you know how cold weather can impact your battery’s performance and life, it only makes sense that you’d want to avoid this fate as much as possible. One of the best ways to reduce long-term damage to your battery from cold weather is to park in a garage or other indoor space. The ambient temperature difference will help shield your battery from below freezing temperatures.

Another great tip for protecting your battery is to ensure that it is fully charged during colder months. Batteries that are less than fully charged are more susceptible to damage during cold nights. If your battery is damaged, ensure you get it replaced immediately. You can visit your local garage or hardware store for this, but obviously if your car is your only method of transport and you can’t get out, you can visit websites such as Harwarexpress who offer next day delivery.

Lastly, the use of battery insulation during winter can help further increase ambient temperature and ensure that the battery doesn’t seem a marked drop in performance due to cold.

With the cold weather being one of the biggest culprits to battery life and performance, it’s important to understand its effects and how to safeguard your battery. Extreme temperatures on both ends can cause battery damage, but this winter, you can be prepared. By keeping your vehicle parked indoors, insulating the battery and/or ensuring it is fully charged, you’ll reduce the chances of damage to your battery.

Author: Zoe Price

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- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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