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How to Keep Your Car Battery Healthy All Winter Long

These expert tips will prevent your battery from dying once the mercury starts plummeting

A battery is shown hooked up to a black and red testing device and a hand pushes coloured buttons

In the winter, few parts of your car are more important than your battery.

Its health can determine whether you’re stranded on the street or a parking lot at -20°C or warm and cozy on the way to your destination.

The good news is, with a little bit of preparation, you can keep your battery in tip-top shape throughout the winter, says CAA automotive expert Ryan Peterson.

Here are five things you can do to make sure your car battery doesn’t die this winter:

  • Use a trickle charger if you don’t drive often
  • Clean away corrosion
  • Test aging batteries
  • Don’t put off replacing a dying battery
  • Buy a block heater

 

Use a trickle charger if you don’t drive often

The electronics on modern cars can draw a small amount of power even when a vehicle is off. If you don’t drive for a while that can drain your battery, making it “less likely to start when you need it,” Peterson says. To prevent that, he recommends using an automatic trickle charger, also known as a battery tender. It’ll provide a slow and steady stream of power to your battery, keeping it in a constant state of charge.

Clean away corrosion

Over time, sulfation—a build up of lead sulphate crystals—can build up on your battery terminals, limiting the flow of electricity to your starter and, in a worst-case scenario, preventing your engine from turning over. The good news? You can dissolve this sulfation, which is often a bluish foam, with a mixture of warm water and baking soda, Peterson says. Pour it over the terminals and give it a light brushing, and the build up will wash away. Just make sure to wear eye, hand and clothing protection while doing it. A word of caution, sulfation can be a result of an underlying charging problem, so if you have build up, it's best to have the vehicles charging system tested.

Test aging batteries

Car batteries typically last between three and five years. If yours is in that range, Peterson recommends having it checked by a professional before the worst of winter arrives. If you’re a CAA Member, you can do that by calling their mobile Battery Service.¹ A technician will come to wherever you are and check the health of your battery. If you do need to replace your battery, the technician can sell you a new one, install it on the spot and recycle your old battery. CAA Members save $25 on the purchase of a new premium battery, which is backed by a six-year total warranty.

Don’t put off replacing a dying battery

If your battery is flagging, don’t try to wring a few more months out of it, Peterson says. That strategy could leave you stranded somewhere in the dead of winter.

“As soon as it's low, don't put it off. Just change it,” he says. Dithering “is just going to cause you more grief, more headaches and more stress.”

Buy a block heater

If you live in an area where the temperature is consistently below -15°C, consider installing a block heater, Peterson says. It will warm your engine and oil, meaning you’ll need less battery power to start your car on frigid mornings.

Get more with CAA

If you have any questions about batteries or how to keep your car humming throughout winter, call CAA Auto Advice. CAA’s team of automotive experts will provide Members with a free consultation and advice they can trust. You can also download the CAA Mobile App to request roadside assistance wherever you are, and then track your service call in real time.

Terms and Conditions

¹ CAA Members automatically receive Member-exclusive pricing on the purchase of a new CAA Premium Battery, compared to the retail (non-member) price. CAA mobile Battery Service Member benefit subject to availability by geographical area. Call 1-800-222-4357 for location details. CAA Battery representatives will deliver, install and recycle your battery at no extra cost, upon purchase of a new CAA Premium Battery.

Image credit: iStock.com/Nathan Srisuwan

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