Proper Battery Care For Winter Weather

Buying Tips & Tricks February 10, 2021

Prepare For The Freeze

The winter season is upon us and there are many things about vehicles to keep an eye on to make sure they’re in tip top shape for the cold weather. The most common thing to go in winter is your battery. While conventional flooded batteries aren’t intended to be great in the cold weather we see here on the prairies, there are some things you can do to try and make sure it’s always in good shape to start your vehicle in the cold. 

Identify the Alternative

Before we dive into looking at how to prolong your battery life in winter, there is an alternative battery you can look at that takes less work than conventional flooded, lead-acid batteries. While more expensive they do exist and can take some of the stress out of the -40 drops of the season. 

The easiest thing you can do is invest in an AGM battery. AGM stands for Absorbent Glass Mat and these batteries are immune to freezing, but often have less cranking amps in general. As long as it has enough for your car's requirements, then this battery will survive the cold, regardless how far the temperature drops without needing to be maintained. These will be more expensive than conventional flooded batteries, but can be worth their value in the prairies where the winters are harsh. 

Be Familiar With Your Battery

While most vehicle parts are meant to remove stress and take less to maintain, batteries aren’t the same. Batteries have a lot more going on than most parts and need to be kept up with. The first step would be to become familiar with the one you have. Check what the brand name is, where it came from and how you can maintain it. 

The most important thing to check is whether your battery is maintenance-free or not. Maintenance-free batteries are not able to be opened and checked, while more old-fashioned batteries have caps on the top allowing you to check the water levels. If your battery can be opened, then making sure the levels are topped up with distilled water is very important. Doing that will allow your battery to keep a charge for longer and withstand colder temperatures.

Keep It Topped Up

The most important thing to do is keep a battery topped up. While the alternator will charge a battery any time your foot is on the gas, batteries still discharge through various ways. Batteries naturally discharge up to 15% per month without being used and just sitting on top of that, starting a vehicle uses more charge than can be recovered at times. If a cold snap is coming, the best thing you can do is put a battery charger and maintainer on it. Keeping your battery at full charge will allow it to withstand weather conditions as bad as -50 and still not freeze. But the less capacity left in the battery the easier it will freeze when the weather drops farther.

When you charge your battery, the most important thing to do is get a charger that is going to do the job well. While all chargers will do their main job, charge the battery, cheaper ones will not stop at full and continue to pump power into the battery, causing overcharging, which can actually hurt the lifespan of your battery in the long run. It also causes what’s called a surface charge, which is extra energy on your battery that voltmeters and multimeters will read as more energy, but is not able to use and, in fact, can pull some capacity away from your battery and leave it less than fully charged. When looking at a battery charger, it’s best to find one that charges and maintains batteries, often referred to as smart chargers. When they get to full charge, a charger that doubles as a maintainer will just hold it at 100%, not putting extra energy into the battery, but also not letting energy escape the battery either, ensuring that your battery stays fully charged for when you need it. Given that all vehicles take a 12 volt battery, something as small as a NOCO Genius2 would do the job very well for a rather decent price. 

In Short

People often ask about battery blankets and other similar products, but there is really no connection between using them and your battery being better prepared for the cold weather. At the end of the day, the simplest tried and true method will always reign supreme. The best thing you can do for a conventional battery is to make sure it’s always charged up to tackle whatever cold weather winter can throw at you.

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