A car battery loses a third of its power in freezing weather. As the air outside cools, the oil in the car thickens. Parts move slower and the battery must use more power to turn over and start the engine.
A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather. Drivers should have their battery and charging system checked for optimum performance - particularly if the battery is more than three years old.
Here are a few quick tips on how to avoid that moment when you try to start your car and nothing happens:
- Park your car in a garage whenever possible. The less frigid the air is around your car, the better for your battery. If you live in an area with temperatures frequently below freezing, consider buying an engine heater to reduce the power the battery needs to start your car.
- Turn off your lights, wipers and heater before you turn off your engine at the end of a drive to prevent an unnecessary drain on the battery the next time you start your car.
- Unplug phone chargers and USB cables for electronic devices as soon as you turn off your engine (for the same reason as #2).
- Avoid using your car's heater longer than you need to; the heater puts extra strain on your battery.
- If you see corrosion on your battery, clean it or have it cleaned by a trained technician.
- If you consistently go two weeks or longer without using your car during the winter, invest in a battery tender to keep the battery charged.
- If you plan on not using your car for an extended period of time during snow season, it is important to turn it on every 6-12 hours and let it run idle for 15-20 minutes so that it reaches operating temperatures. This provides current to the battery, allowing it to regain its charge.
Another tip they add: keep a heavy blanket in your trunk during winter. If you ever break down and can't use your heater in freezing weather, you'll need it to keep warm until help arrives. For AAA's complete Winter Care Checklist, visit AAA.com.