Just like your body’s well-being depends on the quality of external thermal conditions, so does your car battery’s life. Can you recall how your battery strains during the first ignition on a peak winter morning? It is a fact that the longevity of car batteries is related to temperature variations. Both, an extremely low or an extremely high temperature can hamper your vehicle’s battery life. A faulty battery is one of the most common reasons for a vehicle to break down. If you have ever been stranded in the blistering heat or freezing cold because of a busted car battery, and are wondering what happened since you installed it not so long ago, this guide is for you.
Car batteries are electrochemical devices that consist of three major components – Electrodes for collecting and circulating an electrical charge, the electrolytic solution that supplies sulphate along with water for an electrochemical reaction, and battery casing that houses these components.
The current provided by a car’s battery is used to turn on a vehicle’s ignition system and start the engine. It is also used to power ancillary devices such as the radio, brake, headlights, reverse lights, indicators and fans. Your vehicle’s battery plays a cardinal role in providing a smooth driving experience which is why it is important to understand how temperatures can adversely affect its life.
Effects of Sweltering Heat on Car Batteries
Contrary to popular belief, sweltering heat or high summer temperatures pose a greater danger to your car’s battery than wintertime lows. Though it is true that your battery operates at a higher capacity when it’s hot, high temperatures tend to shorten the overall battery life. This happens mainly due to evaporation, overcharging or corrosion. Let us understand these three reasons in detail –
A car battery’s temperature can soar up to 60° – 70°C under the hood. This causes the battery fluid to evaporate, causing irreversible damage to the battery’s internal structure. During the blistering summer months, such a temperature is not too hard to achieve.
High temperatures can cause the voltage regulator or other charging systems to malfunction. This often leads to your battery overcharging. A routine occurrence of such overcharging leads to inevitable battery death.
Soaring temperatures adversely cause the lead plates housed inside the battery to corrode, further deteriorating your battery’s condition. This leads to a slow but imperative death of your vehicle’s battery life.
As you can see, excessive heat accelerates chemical activity and internal corrosion. This particularly holds true of batteries that reach higher temperatures repeatedly. Remember that once your
battery’s capacity has been damaged due to overexposure to heat, it cannot be restored. The ideal operating temperature for an automotive battery that allows it to work at maximum efficiency is 26° – 27°C.
Effects of Freezing Cold on Car Batteries
Cold temperatures during winters can lead to major battery breakdowns. Another fairly common incident is when you are in a hurry to get to the office on an especially cold morning and your ignition simply won’t allow the engine to start and rev. Batteries take a toll when in frigid temperatures due to the following reasons –
At lower temperatures, your car battery’s capacity can drop as low as 50%. This reduction in capacity leads to a further reduction in the battery’s power output, which impedes a vehicle’s engine capacity and the car fails to start.
Altered Oil Viscosity
Colder temperatures cause the engine oil to thicken that makes the engine difficult to turn over. This forces the battery to work harder when it’s already on low capacity. What is meant by an engine turning over? When a car’s engine starts, the battery sends an electrical signal to the spark plugs, causing ignition. This then powers the crankshaft, which allows you to drive the car.
Decreased Recharge Rate
When an automobile is driven, its battery gets charged automatically. However, the rate of battery recharge reduces significantly due to cold weather. This means that you need to drive further to ensure that your battery is properly getting recharged, or risk driving on an inadequately-charged battery the next time you start your car.
Get a new car battery when the self-start struggles to rev up the engine, headlights and cabin lights appear dimmer, the battery light on your meter console is illuminated, the battery is more than three to four years old, and the car’s radio and other internal electrical accessories fail to operate.
Solutions and Conclusions
You obviously cannot control the weather but you can take certain steps to take good care of your battery. Keep your battery clean. Once a week open the bonnet of your car and take a clean dry cloth to wipe off the dirt and dust that is settled on the battery. Double-check if you have turned off your headlights and parking lights after you have parked your car. Headlights drain your car’s battery very fast. If you have a car battery installed which needs topping off, especially during summer months, top it off with distilled water.
A battery’s life is limited and the change in weather conditions make matters worse. Get your car batteries replaced from a reliable establishment.
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