A Car Battery Check Can Keep You From Getting Stuck in the Cold


Here’s a clever saying courtesy of the automotive experts at the Car Care Council: “A battery check today can keep the tow truck away.”


Now is the time to stop into your local garage or automotive service center and have them run a quick scan on the electrical system of your car – battery, starter, and alternator.


A tough job made tougher


Today, the battery inside your vehicle is responsible for providing power to more built-in equipment and connected devices than ever before. From navigation systems and heated seats to portable music systems and cell phones, the demand for power is constant from the moment you turn the key in the ignition until you turn it off.  In addition, some components such as antitheft systems draw a small amount of power to stay in active/standby mode no matter if the car is running or not.


Many service centers, including all VIP Tires & Service locations, will provide free battery checks and often do not require an appointment. The test takes only a few minutes and can provide the vehicle owner with a lot of good information about the strength of the battery as well as the starting and charging system.


Once the test has been completed, the technician can determine if everything is working properly or if the battery should be replaced. The simple diagnostic test can also provide the technician with information about how well the vehicle’s other electrical functions such as the car’s alternator are performing.


OK. So….what’s an alternator do again?


Glad you asked. After a vehicle has been started from the electric current provided by your car  battery, the alternator kicks into gear to recharge the battery while the engine is running. The alternator generates electricity by using a belt driven electromagnetic system connected to the engine. This electricity is then sent back to the car’s battery to be used for all the electronic components in the vehicle. You can learn more about how a charging system works here.


That’s one of the reasons that auto experts say it’s a good idea to start your car or truck every few days and let it run for at least 15 minutes, especially when temperatures drop below freezing. Running the engine will not only warm it up, but it will also send a new supply of power back to the battery, ideally replenishing whatever may have been drained since the last time it was started.


Why cold weather is bad news for your battery


Colder temperatures are tough on auto batteries for a couple of reasons.


First, colder temperatures increase the thickness of engine oil, which makes it more difficult for the engine to turn over. This added resistance makes the battery work harder too.Over time, each of the additional few seconds that the battery has to work begins to add up and can eventually cause the battery to run out of power sooner than expected.


The second reason that cold winters are especially hard on batteries has to do with what’s inside of them. The electric current created by the battery is made as a result of a chemical reaction that occurs between the positive and negative sides of the battery. When the temperatures drop, the chemical reactions inside the battery happen more slowly than when the battery is warm.


In general, batteries will produce less current in colder conditions then they will in warm. This creates a doubly difficult situation of the battery. Not only is it having to work harder, it has to do so with less energy than it would have at other times of the year. That’s why you are more likely to have problems with the battery in your vehicle during the winter.


Monitor your cars vital signs – all year long


Finally, although it is true that older, weak batteries are more likely to fail during cold weather, the reality is that it could happen at any time of the year.


All batteries will lose strength over time – starting from the very moment it is manufactured. When purchasing a new replacement battery for your vehicle, pay attention to the manufacturing date printed on the label and try to purchase the one most recently made whenever possible.  


Although the installation of a replacement car battery is a relatively simple process, there are still precautions that should be taken. Not only are car and truck batteries heavy, they can also be dangerous if not handled properly. If you are unsure or unwilling to do the job yourself, a trained technician can usually complete the job in about an hour.


So make a point to turn into your VIP auto service center and have your battery tested. Within minutes, you’ll know whether or not your car or truck will have the power it needs to get you safely on your way – no matter how cold it gets this winter.



This article is made possible byVIP Tires & Service. VIP is a completeautomotive repair and service center. When you choose VIP for tiresauto inspection, automotive serviceoil change, wheel alignment, brake repair services, muffler & exhaust repair, or any other car maintenance, you can rest assured that we will keep your vehicle running right. Open 7 days a week and with 56 locations throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, VIP is right around the corner when you need us.

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