Most vehicles are started by a 12-volt battery that turns the engine. While the car is running, the alternator recharges the battery so it can start your car the next time. But car batteries lose power when temperatures drop below 32°F (0°C), and some can even lose half their power when the temperature drops below 0°F (-18°C). Not to worry—these easy-to-follow diagnostics and maintenance tips can prolong your cold-weather battery life.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CAR BATTERIES ARE ON THE WAY OUT?
On the surface, it’s easy to tell if a car battery has failed—your car won't start! But usually you don't have to wait until you are left stranded or late for work before seeing the signs and replace a dying battery. The first step is checking the age of your car battery. You’ll see the manufacturer’s date on the battery, and if your starter battery is more than three years old, be sure to have it tested and plan to replace it eventually.
Other signs that a battery is failing include:
- Your car starts slowly.
- Your headlights or interior lights are dimmer than usual.
- Your car won’t quite start and the engine clicks – and you have to jumpstart it with jumper cables or a portable battery pack.
If you've tried jumpstarting a battery and it still doesn’t work, then it means that your battery is dead. Once the battery dies, there isn't any other option but to replace it.
TESTING A CAR BATTERY
If you are unsure about your car battery's health, or if you want to preform an in-depth maintenance check on your vehicle, you can test your battery to ensure it’s in proper working order. Flooded lead-acid batteries, which are the most common batteries used in cars, can be measured accurately for specific gravity and battery voltage with either:
- A hydrometer is required to measure specific gravity.
- A digital DC voltmeter will measure voltage. (Your voltmeter should read 12.4 V or higher.)
Many repair shops, battery retailers, and auto parts dealers will also test your batteries for free if you bring in your car with a concern. It's important to ALWAYS consult the Safety First manual or follow your car battery manufacturer's safety and testing procedures.
HOW DO I GET LONGER LIFE FROM MY BATTERIES IN THE WINTER?
Turn off interior lights and unplug accessories when not driving. Another easy way to prolong battery lifespan is to take fewer short trips in the winter. During short drives, the alternator may not be able to charge the battery fully, and partially discharged batteries are more prone to freezing or not having enough power to start a car the next time you turn the key.
Check Your Battery Connections Periodically
They should be in good shape, secured tightly to the hold-down bar, and clean. While wearing personal protective equipment, you can remove corrosion with a stiff wire brush. Again, see Safety First for step-by-step instructions and safety tips for car battery maintenance.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU STORE YOUR CAR IN WINTER
If you store your car in during the winter months—or if you just don't drive once the snow falls—be sure to use a trickle charger to keep it charged. Fully charged batteries can tolerate a greater temperature range than partially discharge batteries. Generally, fully charged lead-acid batteries will not freeze until they reach a very low temperature. However, the freezing temperature for partially discharged batteries is much higher.
NEED A NEW BATTERY?
One of the most important factors to consider is a car battery’s Cold Cranking Amps (CCA). CCA is a measure of how many amps a battery can deliver for 30 seconds at 0°F, while not dropping below 7.2 V. Replacing the battery in your vehicle with the same or higher CCA rating as the original battery is critical for reliable performance.
All Crown Battery automotive starter batteries are at least 500 CCA, to ensure optimal performance during the winter. Click here to find out where you can get a replacement car battery.