But did you know that winter is precisely the time of year when your car battery is most likely to die? Canadian winters are harsh on our car batteries, especially after a summer of surviving hot temperatures. Make sure you don’t get stranded mid-shopping trip this holiday season – use these cold weather car battery care tips to keep the battery running well into the New Year.
1. Get it checked before winter
If your car battery is three years or older, don’t wait until the cold weather hits to ensure its functioning properly and will make it through the winter. Make sure you don’t find yourself on the side of the road on a chilly winter’s day with a car that just won’t start! Get your battery checked by your local mechanic, before the chilly season sets in, so you can have peace of mind knowing how much more life your car battery has.
Ask your mechanic to check your electrical system, including your battery and alternator. Also, you should check the battery yourself to make sure that it’s in proper working condition – you can do this using a voltmeter. Make sure that it reads 12.4 volts or higher. What’s more, it’s a good idea to keep your battery fully charged throughout the winter months by using a battery charger or maintainer – this is extra important if you make short, frequent drives of less than 2 kilometers.
2. Park indoors
Just step outside on a cold Canadian winter day and feel that chilly gust of wind and it’s obvious why you should park your vehicle indoors throughout the winter months – those cold temperatures can be harsh, even on our cars!
Whenever you can, try to park indoors in your personal garage or parking garage, so you can help protect your car battery from those frosty gusts of wind. If there’s an outlet nearby, you can even invest in an electric battery warmer to help keep your battery warm and insulated – these will help older batteries perform better in the winter and will extend the life of new batteries too.
3. Stay on top of maintenance
Winter is not the time to start falling behind with your vehicle maintenance schedule – especially when it comes to your battery.
You’ll want to check your battery for any corrosion on the terminals, removing and cleaning them if you do find any signs of corrosion. What’s more, you’ll want to keep the battery clean of any dirt and debris – dirt and grime on your battery and its terminals, coupled with thickened engine oil in winter temperatures, will make the battery work even harder than it already has to. Remove any corrosion, dirt and debris by using a damp cloth, water, baking soda and a toothbrush.
4. Wait before turning on those accessories
When you get into your chilly car after it’s been parked outside in the cold all day long, you’re probably tempted to crank up the heat as high as it will go and turn on the radio, lights and seat warmers right away. While it’s tempting to want to start warming up your car as soon as possible, it actually causes more strain on your battery to start powering up your accessories right away, since you’re not giving your alternator enough time to properly charge up. Instead of cranking up your accessories ASAP, wait a minute to let the alternate charge.
Besides waiting before you turn your accessories back on, you should also turn them off before you leave your car in the cold. That’s because, when you turn your ignition, your battery sends energy to your car’s motor to get things running – when you’ve forgotten to turn off your radio, seat warmers and other accessories, your battery will have the extra stress of sending energy to all these various systems that you didn’t turn off when you last left the car. On chilly days, this can be especially stressful on your battery, zapping it of energy even faster – leaving you at a higher risk of getting stuck with a dead battery on a cold winter day.
Sometimes, no amount of care can revive an old car battery, in which case it’s time to replace it with a new one. If it’s finally time to part ways with your old car battery, use our step-by-step guide to replace it with a brand new one.