When temperatures drop, automotive batteries are known to fail, and drivers should always be advised to make sure they know the condition of their vehicle's battery.
For a majority of drivers, the battery is unnoticeable unless the engine refuses to start. Every third car breakdown is caused by the electrical system. A healthy battery reduces greatly the risk of breakdowns, especially when temperatures fall below zero.
In co-operation with their selected partners, one of the world’s largest automotive battery manufacturers, Johnson Controls, has tested more than 67,000 vehicles in Europe. The company found that every fourth car driver had a weak battery, with a high potential of underperformance of the vehicle or even car breakdown.
"Extreme temperatures, irregular use, short trips and the age of a vehicle influence the starting power of a battery," says Christian Rosenkranz, vice president engineering at automotive battery manufacturer Johnson Controls.
He explains the four main causes of battery failure - extreme temperatures, irregular use, short trips, age of vehicle - and how drivers can safeguard against it.
High temperatures can result in a battery losing power. Unfortunately, the problem is often not detectable until it is too late. To prevent this from happening: avoid parking the car in the sun whenever possible; and periodically test the battery to avoid starting problems by visiting a qualified garage. If the battery needs replacement, special tools and expertise are needed due to the interconnectivity with other electrical components in the car. If the electrical circuit between the battery and a vehicle’s computer system is broken, data in control units and infotainment systems could be lost. Electronic components like radios and windows may need to be re-programmed.
Many drivers think when a vehicle is off, no energy from the battery is being used. This is incorrect. Certain systems, such as alarms and locks, keyless-go functions and navigation need electricity even when the car is parked. This contributes to battery discharge. After sitting un-used in a garage for a few weeks, a vehicle might not start. This is more common in cold weather or if you have an older battery. Driving a car once a week for a minimum of 10 minutes can help prevent starting problems.
When car owners drive only short distances, the battery is not able to fully recharge. In winter, power-hungry consumers, such as rear windows and heated seats further drain the battery. Take the car once in a month on a long distance trip to recharge the battery through the alternator.
Age of the vehicle
With increasing vehicle age, battery power can decrease due to corrosion and sulfation that can hamper proper charging. Drivers should test their batteries on a regular basis to ensure a proper state of charge and performance.