Tips To Keep Your Battery Running This Winter

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CLICK CLICK CLICK... nothing. Darn it all!

We have all experienced the sound of a dead battery in the middle of a cold Canadian winter. It's in that precise moment we regret not having checked on it before cold temps were upon us... darn, too late. Waiting until the battery is completely dead, before replacing, is likely going to find you stuck somewhere and at the most inopportune time.

Being a car battery in the winter is a tough job. The extreme cold of Alberta zaps away a lot of its power all while your vehicle's engine requires more power to actually start. The battery requires a higher charge to function efficiently in the winter than in the summer.

Signs Your Battery is Dying

  • Slow Starting. When temperature drops your battery will start slower, this is normal. However if the temperature hasn't changed much and your startup is drastically slower you should get the battery tested
  • Headlights and Power, but no Start. Your lights work, your radio works but you get a click or a buzz once you hit your key. Or maybe your headlights are very dim. The purpose of the battery is to crank the engine by providing a full dose of high-amperage power to the starter. When the battery is low, it cannot deliver that power but often can still supply enough power for lights or accessories, that don't require as much amperage.
  • Swollen Battery Size. The battery is fat or swollen. The manufacturer designs their batteries to have a specific footprint, if you find your battery is larger you likely have a problem. If your battery is bloated than your alternator has a faulty voltage regulator and has overcharged your battery. This will cause a buildup of hydrogen gases faster than the battery can dissipate. There is no way to reverse.
  • Odd Smelling Battery. This is a warning sign that your battery is ready to fail. Typically, your battery would be odorless. If you smell rotten eggs, this means that your battery is venting gases. It may also have leaked sulfuric acid that could harm other components of your engine. This could be very costly; you should get in to your service center quickly.
  • Age of the Battery. The average lifespan of a battery is between 4-6 years. At around the 4-year mark, you should pay more attention to it and have the charged tested frequently.
  • Vehicle Starts & Dies Immediately. This is a very strange issue that can indeed happen on certain makes / models of vehicles. The battery will have enough voltage to start the vehicle, but then it immediately dies and will not idle. If you encounter this issue, there are a multitude of things that could be wrong, but doing a simple battery check is the first and easiest place to start. The basis behind this is when a battery fails, it can cause interruptions to the constant signals it sends to the ECU. Then if the battery can muster enough might to start the car, the sensors controlling engine idle, speed, and fueling have already lost signal, and the car immediately dies.

Fear not, there are steps you can take to protect your battery and keep your car running even in the coldest of winters.

Tips On Improving the Lifespan of your Battery

1. Test Your Battery

To make sure your battery is ready for the cold weather, get it tested! This is a simple process that most garages do for free or for a low cost, in some cases it is included with your oil change.

When you ask for a battery test, the technicians will look for any weakness in your car battery by connecting the battery to a piece of equipment to measure power-- and may even be able tell you the temperature that'll kill the battery.

2. Check for Corrosion or Loose Cable Connections

There are two points of contact on top of your battery--one positive, one negative - called terminals.  They stick out like posts on top of the battery and your car has cables that connect to these posts.

Corrosion around the terminals or loose cable connections can interfere with the battery charge and make it harder for the battery to start your engine. A quick terminal cleaning and cable check can help reestablish contact.

3. Drive for 10 minutes or longer

A simple way to keep your battery charged during the winter is by driving. Driving every day keeps the cold at bay. Your engine warms the battery when you drive.

Some technicians even recommend driving the length of their commute to work even while on holiday. Making a similar drive -- even if it's to a café, the in-laws or the grocery store at the opposite end of town -- can keep your battery exercising and ready.

However, the moment your start-up seems to slow down, get to a repair shop. That's an early sign your battery is going to die. Driving will keep winter damage at bay, but it won't bring a battery back to life.Park your car in a garage, or out of the wind

The weaker your battery, the warmer it has to be to make sure you can start your car. It depends on your battery's size, power and age. Leave your car in a garage overnight to help protect the battery. If you don't have a garage, park the front of the car downwind.

A fully charged battery can resist incredibly cold temperatures. The thermometer has to read -80 F or 62 C to freeze a fully charged battery. But that strength disappears if your battery wears down enough. If your battery is only half-charged, it could turn to a block of ice at -10 F or -23 overnight.

The service team at Drayton Valley Ford and Quick Lane Tire and Auto Center offer battery testing, free of charge. If it's time to replace yours, they will find the battery right for your vehicle. We offer top quality Motorcraft Batteries for all makes and models. They are backed by an incredible 36-month, unlimited kms, free replacement warranty. Trust our team of battery experts. They will keep you safe on the road this winter.

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