While people protect themselves against the elements, they often forget to protect their vehicles which also need some added attention and protection during this time.
Vehicle batteries are always trickier during this time, as the starter draws increased amps to crank a cold engine. Many people also forget to turn off their headlights which drains battery power. To avoid this, a battery in good working condition is essential. Remember that in cold weather a fully charged battery provides less than half of the power than in warm weather.
In addition, the following tips are suggested:
- Check the water (electrolyte) level. Water must cover the fluid plates and, if necessary, top it up. Use only distilled water (water that is boiled and allowed to cool). Avoid overfilling and clean any spillage.
- Keep the battery clean. Clean the terminals with warm (not hot) soapy water and remove any acid or dirt build-up, which can cause the battery to self-discharge quicker.
- Secure the battery. Make sure the battery is secured properly and not moving around under bonnet.
- Charge the battery regularly. If you normally drive only short distances, or use your car infrequently, you may need to take a longer (one hour) drive each week to ensure the battery stays charged. Shorter trips, or excessive idling, is not enough to charge the battery, and will shorten its lifespan.
- Switch off before you switch on. Switch all other devices in your vehicle off before your switch the car on. These include the air-conditioner, radio, lights, seat warmers, windscreen wipers, and demisters.
- Alternator belts. Check the belts for fraying or cracking. A loose alternator belt is a common cause of battery failure.
- Service your car. Poor engine condition can overload the battery, so ensuring your car is maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications will extend the battery’s life.
- Call the AA. If your battery is dying, call the AA first to replace it. The AA will come to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
If you struggle to start your vehicle, do not crank the engine continuously as this may damage the starter, battery, and other electronic components.