Drivers have always known that car batteries seem to be temperamental at times and would often refuse to start the engine when it’s too cold outside. That observation is actually backed by science and it’s now a recognized fact that extreme cold, as well as extreme heat, has an effect on its performance. Here are 7 ways the weather can affect your vehicle’s power cell.
Your car’s engine requires more power from your battery to start in cold weather
Half of the reason why cars are harder to start when the temperature plummets is that its engine is harder to turn over. At lower temperatures, engine oil tends to be a lot thicker than normal, just like how oil from bacon easily solidifies if you put it inside the refrigerator. With this thicker, more viscous oil consistency, the engine will require more power to start - power that it has to source from the battery.
But the battery produces lesser power in cold weather
Unfortunately, the other half of the problem lies in your vehicle’s power cell itself. Batteries give power by the chemical reaction happening in the solution inside. The problem with cold weather is that this reaction slows down as well, resulting in diminished power output.
What this means is that during cold days, you’ll get lesser juice from your vehicle’s power cell. However, your engine needs more power than normal just to get started. The result is obvious - it’s harder to crank the engine in winter and, at times, it won’t start at all!
It losses 60 percent of its strength at zero degrees Fahrenheit
If you’ve been wondering just how much the drop in output is during cold weather, we actually have data from AAA’s Automotive Research Center. At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, your car’s power cell losses around 35 percent of its strength. But it worsens the colder it gets. At zero degrees Fahrenheit, the loss of power is a staggering 60 percent. Now, you see just how hard at work your vehicle’s power cell is during the cold months.
However, batteries will be able to hold their charge for longer periods of time when temperature drops
But there is one surprising benefit to cold weather when it comes to batteries. You probably know by now that a car’s power cell gradually loses the charge stored in it even when it’s not in use. Surprisingly, the issue is not so pronounced in colder temperatures.
Apparently, batteries are able to retain their charge longer when the temperature drops down. This means that when storing an unused but charged cell, it is best to place it in a cool area.
How summer heat could affect battery fluid
Now it’s time to get hot and explore how the summer heat could affect your car battery. If you live in an area where summer can get really hot, you’ll know that the most important thing to do is drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. The same thing goes for your car’s power storage.
In the sweltering heat of summer, things can evaporate pretty quickly. In fact, some of the fluid inside the cell might evaporate, which could impact its performance. The reason why its casing has a translucent portion is to enable you to easily check fluid levels and refill it with distilled water if necessary. A warning though, care should be exercised during the refilling process as the acid solution is strong enough to corrode your skin easily.
Heat also speeds up corrosion
Excessive heat won’t just lower the electrolyte’s fluid. Too much heat can even cause the corrosion of its internal components to accelerate, a process known as heat deterioration. This damage will prematurely shorten the lifespan of your vehicle’s power cell.
There are batteries designed for specific temperature ranges
Fortunately, manufacturers have long recognized the effects of temperature on car batteries. After countless research and technology advancements, they have now come up with products that are specifically designed to work best in certain temperature ranges.
For instance, batteries designed for cold weather use have higher cold cranking amps to offset the effects of lower temperature. On the other hand, batteries designed for use in hot climates have higher electrolyte to lead ratio to help them endure the heat better. You should choose the type of battery suitable for the weather in your location.
After knowing the seven ways how the weather may affect your ride, it’s easier to explain why power-related issues usually tend to happen when the temperature goes to extremes. However, you don’t need to just passively accept whatever problems the weather might throw at you. Head over to our accessories guide
and see how you can prepare for the worst.