The Nonprofit Car Care Council (CCC) recently recommended drivers have their car’s battery checked before winter weather sets in to avoid being stranded in cold, poor conditions. The CCC noted all batteries eventually need replacement, even if it is an infrequent requirement. Like most maintenance needs, the exact time it will become pressing cannot be predicted, so wise motorists may want to have this important vehicle component checked now.
This may be especially true for those who expect to drive a significant distance home for the holidays, or otherwise take lengthy trips. Winter can be hard on batteries because the cold thickens engine oil, forcing the battery to work harder in order to start a vehicle.
Common Battery Problems
According to the CCC, most batteries which develop problems do so because of overcharging or excessive heat. Overcharging may occur due to a faulty voltage regulator or other charging system component, and can cause the battery to charge too quickly. This may cause the battery to stop working more quickly than it should from regular wear and tear, but the problem can be slow compared to other difficulties.
Overheating, on the other hand, may evaporate battery fluid and damage the internal structure of the battery itself. Battery life can be improved if a vehicle owner ensures charging takes place at the correct rate. Either way, having the battery tested before long drives or particularly important trips can be helpful.
Standard Battery Care and Maintenance
Depending on the type of battery in a vehicle, the CCC notes, there may be other steps to take. For example, if the component requires topping off, it should be checked often and distilled water added when necessary. This is a step more typically needed in hot weather, however.
All batteries should be kept clean. Corrosion and dirt can interfere with proper function due to their effects on insulation and conduction of electricity. In some cases, dirt can drain battery power. If a battery does need to be replaced, then the new one should always have a rating at least as high as that specified for the vehicle.
Other Car Care Suggestions
Drivers may wish to check up on other important components as well. The Car Care Council suggests brake systems be checked annually to ensure proper functioning. Various fluids, such as engine oil, antifreeze, windshield solvent and transmission fluid should be examined by a knowledgeable individual such as a professional technician. Another component which may be key in winter is the heating and ventilation system, important for defrosting as well as comfort.