How to Winterize Your Car Battery

Battery Maintenance

The “Polar Vortex” buzzwords are making headlines this week as temps plunge across the country. Winter’s always tough on cars, and among the parts most susceptible to cold is your battery. Don’t wind up stuck with a flat battery in the shivering cold. Here are a few tips to help winterize your car battery.

  • Replace it if it’s old. Your first step is prevention, which makes sense. If you’re headed into what will likely be a brutal winter and it’s been more than four years since the last time you had a new battery installed, don’t even bother trying to get it in shape. Simply replace it with a new battery. It’s a cheap form of insuring yourself against getting stranded.
  • Run a load test. If your battery is less than four years old and you’re thinking there’s still some life left in it, take it to a local auto mechanic and ask them to run what’s called a “load test.” This will give you an accurate idea as to whether your battery will be able to handle those especially frigid days and still do its job. Depending how your battery performs under the load test, you may want to drop a new one in before the temps get too low.
  • Check the fitting. Lift your hood (or trunk on some vehicles) and get up close and personal with your battery to check its health. You can do this with or without the help of an auto mechanic. Give your car battery a few pokes to make sure it’s not loose on top of its holding tray. When this happens, your battery runs the risk of losing longevity. In other words, they’re tough, but they’re not that tough – too much vibration can even drastically cut down on the length of your battery’s life. If it’s loose, tighten it down.
  • Check the connections. While you’re at it, check on your battery’s cable connections. You can touch your car battery cable connections without danger as long as your car is turned off and the key is out of the ignition (to be on the safe side). If the connections are loose, this can cause your battery to suddenly stop performing when you really need it to come through. Hint: you shouldn’t be able to move the ends of the cable where they’re attached to your battery. If you see this, use a tool to tighten the connection or take it to your auto mechanic to do it for you.
  • Clean off any gunk. Take a look at the amount of buildup (if any) on your battery terminals where the cables are attached. If there’s excessive buildup of gunk, you can use a wire brush to remove it yourself. This ensures the connection between battery and cable is unobstructed, giving you more juice when you engage the battery.

It’s never a bad idea to take your car into your local auto mechanic to have them give everything under the hood a once-over, now that winter’s in full gear. This way, you can ensure that everything’s in tip-top shape, eliminating the risk or worry that you’ll find yourself stranded in a winter wonderland.
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Image credit: Flickr, Charles Williams