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In this two-part series, we’re looking at why batteries fail, especially during extreme weather. We know extreme temperatures can be tough on automotive batteries. But there are other factors that can cause batteries to fail any time of year.
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With much of the nation in the clutches of an extended blast of Arctic cold, vehicle batteries are top of mind for motorists – or at least they should be.
Parts stores are reporting brisk battery sales, and auto clubs report that a dead or weak battery is the No. 1 reason for roadside service calls.
Battery performance can take a 35-percent hit when temperatures hit freezing, and an even bigger hit when the temps go lower, according to CTEK, a Swedish manufacturer of battery chargers.
While a battery’s capacity is reduced in freezing temperatures, the power needed to start the vehicle’s engine increases substantially – creating a perfect storm for batteries that aren’t in top shape.
Here’s the good news: Proper battery maintenance can help motorists avoid problems in extreme cold weather.
CTEK offers these tips to avoid being stranded in frigid winter weather:
Check your battery. Perform a preventive maintenance check on the battery and cables. Look for corrosion on the terminals. Remove and clean the terminal connections if necessary. Be sensitive to changes. Be aware of any changes in the way your car starts, or the operation of the electrical system in general. Do the lights dim considerably when you try to start the car? Does the starter seem to be turning slower than normal? Any changes can indicate a weak battery or problems in the electrical system. CTEK offers a Bluetooth-enabled battery monitor that gathers data on battery voltage, battery temperature and battery charge status, the company notes. The stored data is available instantly on a free, downloadable iPhone or Android app.
Charge your battery regularly. In addition to the stress that extreme hot and cold weather places on a battery, today’s vehicles require much more from the electrical system than in the past. Navigation systems, entertainment systems and the plethora of electronic control units drain power from the battery that the alternator cannot completely replace. And that drain continues even when the car isn’t running.
“In addition to the stress from extreme weather, today’s automotive electrical system is designed to kill batteries,” said Bobbie DuMelle of CTEK. “It puts tremendous demands on the battery, and then does not properly restore it to its full capacity. That’s why CTEK advocates the regular use of a microprocessor-controlled smart charger to achieve maximum battery service life.”
Regular use of smart chargers such as the new CTEK MXS 5.0 can help prevent dead batteries in cold weather, and can double or triple battery life, according to DuMelle.
By following these steps, car owners can reduce the chances that they will be left out in the cold due to a dead battery when the temperatures drop. And, they also will help extend the service life of their vehicle’s battery.
The cold weather is definitely helping battery sales!
BISMARCK, N.D. - It happens a lot this time of year. You go out to start your car in the morning and the battery is dead.
The staff at O'Reilly auto parts in Bismarck say sales have spiked for car batteries, fuel additives, and anything else people need to keep going in winter, which comes in handy for a lot of people.
"I came up here from Florida some years back. I never had those kinda issues, but here in Bismarck I've definitely had some issues like that, and thankfully I've had some help," said David Baxter, Bismarck resident.
O'Reiley says it's selling 10 batteries on a slow day, maybe 20-30 batteries a day on colder days.