How to Keep Your Car Battery Charged & Maintained Through Winter
Stuck out in the cold morning wind with dimmed lights, a clicking engine, and the sinking feeling you’re about to have to ask someone for a jump start? Keeping your car’s battery running at it’s maximum potential can take time and effort even during the best of weather, but winter chills can drain energy, leaving you stranded, or even crack your battery’s casing (and battery acid spills are definitely not a good way to start the day). Maintaining your car’s battery during the winter months can take a little forethought but with these handy tips we can help you make sure your vehicle is road-ready no matter how low the temperature drops.
Use It or Lose It
Though this isn’t always an option the best bet for keeping your battery’s life in peak condition is to simply drive your chosen ride. Sitting up idle for extended periods of time isn’t good for a vehicle even in the best of weather, and winter conditions can make battery drain much, much worse than normal. Thirty minutes on the road at least once a week will help make sure your car keeps running in top shape.
Keep It Clean
Corroded battery terminals, frayed connectors and loose cables will all contribute to battery drain. Whenever checking your battery during routine maintenance make sure to double check all terminals, clamps and cables for anything loose or covered in corrosion. Corroded cables and terminals can be cleaned with a terminal brush and the appropriate cleaning solution.
Start Accessories Slowly
Avoid the temptation to hop in your freshly cranked car and instantly dial the heating up to max – Turning on accessories like the air conditioning, radio and car chargers can contribute to battery drain. Let your vehicle run for a few moments prior to starting your heater and the like, as this gives your alternator time to let your battery reach it’s maximum charge.
Likewise, make sure to turn off your AC and radio before exiting the car, to make sure they aren’t automatically on when next cranking up your vehicle. Starting up your car without these energy-draining devices already active will help reduce load, making sure your battery isn’t wasting any excess power fighting against the cold temperatures.
Protect Against the Elements Indoors
No matter what other precautions you take the best defense against the winter months will always be keeping your vehicle indoors. We know this isn’t always practical for everyone but an indoors area, preferably heated, will be your first, best line of defense protecting against inclement weather.
Seek Outside Heat
Battery blankets and block heaters can help give your battery a little extra boost during super cold weather, and are particularly handy if you have to leave your car outside. A block heater should be plugged in and turned on several hours prior to vehicle use, while a battery blanket can be left plugged in and on overnight.
Get the Best Car Battery For Your Weather
If you are going to leave your vehicle parked for a long time, or if you live in extreme climates, check out our review of the best car battery so you can see the different options that might apply in your circumstances.
Keep It Charged
Battery chargers (often referred to as “trickle chargers”) are cheap compared to replacing a battery entirely, and can be lifesavers for vehicles that aren’t moved as often, or have to be left stationary for an entire winter season.
Using a battery charger is simple, and not much different from testing your battery’s strength with a multimeter. Simply locate your battery, expose the terminals, and connect the charger’s cables to the appropriate connectors – Red to positive, black to negative. From here the charger can be left connected to the battery as long as need be, though be aware: If there is anything in the vehicle draining the battery, such as a hood light, the charger will be ineffective. Hood lamp bulbs can simply be unscrewed and removed to eliminate this drain.
If leaving your battery in your car while charging isn’t an option the battery may be brought indoors and charged there. The battery should be left in a well-ventilated, non-occupied area of the house (such as a garage) as charging can create harmful hydrogen gas emissions.
With just a few bits of know-how, a little bit of care your battery life can last far beyond the winter season. We hope these helpful tidbits will keep your car running fast and safe through all your cold mornings and more!