Cold Weather and Car Batteries

Cold Weather and Car Batteries

Posted on January 29, 2018

Why Cold Weather Results in Dead Car Batteries

Canada is famous for its harsh winters, and freezing temperatures are something that all Canadians learn to deal with. Unfortunately, the cold winter weather can bring with it numerous problems, and this is especially true for your vehicle. Although cold weather can affect your vehicle in various ways and make it harder for your engine to turn over, car batteries can be affected by cold weather more than most other parts.

Car Batteries

Although your battery doesn’t have to work all that hard to get your engine to turn over in warm weather, drivers need to be more alert during the winter as the freezing temperatures make your battery much more prone to failure. Every winter thousands upon thousands of Canadians find themselves stranded due to a dead battery, which is why we’ll now present everything you need to know to avoid this all-too- common problem.

The Effect of Cold Weather on Battery Performance

The average lead-acid car batteries contain lead plates that are submerged in a liquid electrolyte solution, and this produces a chemical reaction that produces the electric charge needed to power your vehicle. Higher temperatures speed up the rate of this chemical reaction, which in turn produces a higher charge and thus provides more power when starting the engine.

However, the opposite is also true, and colder temperatures slow down the reaction and thus diminish the amount of power the battery provides to the engine. As a result, your engine may be slightly sluggish to start in colder weather even when your battery retains a full charge. However, this alone doesn’t fully explain why cold weather causes so many dead car batteries.

Heat Damages Car Batteries, Cold Kills

Although dead car batteries tend to happen more frequently during the winter, this problem actually starts during the summer when the temperatures are much higher. Higher temperatures accelerate the chemical reaction occurring within the battery and thus allow it to produce more power. However, this increased chemical activity also quickens the rate of internal corrosion inside the battery cells.

Over time, this internal corrosion will damage the battery cells and diminish their ability to retain a full charge, and this in turn shortens the battery’s lifespan. However, the fact that your engine requires much less power to turn over during the summer means that this damage isn’t likely to have an effect until the temperatures start to drop. In fact, a damaged battery with a very low state of charge is usually capable of providing enough starting power as long as the weather is warm.

Still, things begin to change once the weather gets colder. A healthy, fully charged lead-acid battery should easily be able to withstand temperatures as low as -50 C without freezing or otherwise being damaged. While these brutally cold temperatures will definitely make it harder for the battery to turn the engine over due to the reduced power, the cold weather alone usually won’t be enough to damage a strong, fully charged battery.

This is where the damage caused by the increased internal corrosion your battery experiences during the winter plays a role. The higher summer temperatures will eventually start to damage the battery and limit its ability to retain a full charge, which in turn makes the battery more likely to freeze during extreme cold.

Whereas a battery with a full charge can withstand temperatures as low as -50 without freezing, a battery with only a low state of charge could freeze as soon as the temperature drops below 0 C. As soon as the liquid inside the battery freezes, it begins to expand and cause irreversible damage to the cells. As a result, the battery will eventually fail since the damage will make it impossible to provide enough power to start the engine during cold weather, and this is the reason that so many people end up with dead car batteries during winter.

The Importance of Proper Battery Maintenance

If you find that your engine is more sluggish to start during cold weather, this generally isn’t something to worry too much about. In addition to slowing down the chemical reaction inside the battery and thus diminishing the power it produces, cold weather also causes your motor oil to thicken up and makes it harder to get the engine to crank over.

Generally speaking, the typical lead-acid battery should easily last for three years or more before it begins to show any signs of damage caused by high temperatures, and this is precisely why most experts recommend that drivers begin paying closer attention to their battery after it’s been in their car for three years. With a damaged battery, the first thing you’ll usually notice is that your engine sounds more sluggish and slow when it starts. Oftentimes you’ll start having to turn the key for far longer before the engine finally cranks over, which is a good sign that your battery is starting to go.

Still, this problem usually won’t affect you that much in warmer weather as long as your battery retains some small amount of charge. The issue is that a sluggish battery can instantly turn into a dead battery once the temperatures drop, which is why it’s essential that you keep your battery well-maintained and occasionally have it checked to make sure it can still retain a full charge.

If you find your battery does need replaced, we offer a variety of car batteries and a whole range of other auto parts in Kingsville. Of course, a sluggish-sounding engine doesn’t necessarily mean your battery needs to be replaced as the problem could be related to something else entirely. Still, thanks to our wide selection of auto parts in Kingsville, we are sure to have the solution to your automotive problem no matter whether it is related to the battery or anything else.

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