The answer is – probably not in the way you think. We tend to think of battery problems as a winter phenomenon, as we fruitlessly turn the key and hear that disheartening click instead of a cheery engine start.
But that’s probably because a dead battery is worse in winter, as we sit shivering in the car waiting for the AA. Both hot and cold temperatures can kill a battery, yet most people never give a thought to battery maintenance. Although a lead acid battery is designed to work in both heat and frost, the battery’s capacity goes down to about 20% of normal in ice, snow and frost.
So does hot weather increase its capacity? Actually it does, by as much as 12%, but that capacity increase reduces the life of the battery. In a temperate climate, the battery will last 50% longer than in a hot one.
The school run is also a likely culprit, with short journeys drawing on the battery, which never gets a chance to recharge.
Why Winter Demands More of Batteries
The starter motor needs a good whack of amperage from the battery, but in winter, cold weather may affect the battery’s ability to handle this demand. As the oil in the car thickens in the cold weather, the battery needs even more amps to get going.
Then you set off with the headlights on, the windscreen wipers going, back and front demisters on full blast, heating at max, a nice radio station on loud to cheer you up – pity the poor battery.
Don’t forget that a weakly charged battery is much more likely to freeze than a fully charged one. So one thing you can do in winter, is to keep the battery topped up, especially if the forecast is for icy and freezing conditions.
Maintaining Your Battery
The AA says that “undercharging” gives rise to “sulphation” – the lead plates in the battery harden and it is no longer able to hold a charge. Not to worry, there are solutions. As well as the great selection of car batteries online from stockists such as http://www.grovesbatteries.co.uk/, you can get an “intelligent charger” battery conditioner.
You can leave the battery connected to it for lengthy periods without the battery getting damaged – a great investment.