Get Your Motor Running: Tips to Save Your Car Battery This Winter

Although single digit temps aren’t in the forecast anytime soon, experts say now is a good time to do a double take with your car battery.

The last thing many of us want is to be out in the cold and stranded with a dead car battery when temperatures hit the teens.

Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey teamed up with professionals at AAA North Penn in Scranton.

They offered some "news you can use tips" to help your battery survive a  brutal blast of winter weather.

Among the suggestions from AAA North Penn, they include:

  1. Park your car in a garage whenever possible. The less frigid the air is around your car, the better for your battery.
  2. Turn off your lights, wipers, and heater before you turn off your engine at the end of a drive to prevent an unnecessary drain on the battery the next time you start your car.
  3. Avoid using your car’s heater longer than you have to; heaters put high demands on your battery.
  4. If you see corrosion on your battery, clean it, or have it cleaned by a trained technician.
  5. If you consistently go two weeks or longer without using your car during the winter, invest in a battery tender to keep the battery charged.

1 Comment

  • Micah Cameron

    I would consider tip #3 to be pretty bad advice, although I can understand why someone might mistakenly reason that using the heater is bad for your battery.

    Here’s why: using any kind of HVAC on a vehicle involves turning on the blower motor, which is a fairly large, high-amperage DC motor used to blow air through the car vents. It is true that, on most cars, it draws more amperage than most other accessories with the possible exception of the rear window defroster. However, although all electrical accessories get their power through the battery, the alternators on all modern (made in the last 30 years) vehicles are designed to handle multiple loads from electrical accessories simultaneously.

    Alternators have lots of current overhead and will simply increase the amount of power sent to keep the battery charged when the vehicle is running when using high-draw accessories, like the heater. This is why a good battery will hold around a 12.5 volt charge when the vehicle is off, but with the engine running, the output voltage should be closer to 13.5 volts. Using the heater frequently will not degrade the battery more quickly. Furthermore, although it will technically increase the load on the engine and therefore require more fuel, any degradation in fuel economy is unlikely to be noticeable, and it certainly won’t use as much fuel as turning on the air conditioning. Driving sans heat will, however, make the vehicle occupants more uncomfortable, and such actions have the potential to create visibility hazards, as windows may become foggy or iced over.

    Finally, it’s worth noting that there is no difference in electrical draw between heating or cooling the car. The heat is provided from the heater core, which circulates warm engine coolant through the dashboard. When the HVAC selector is switched to heat, a blend door opens to allow the blower motor to access the hot pipes circulating coolant that are warmed by the running engine; that doesn’t require any additional power compared to blowing air from the outside at ambient temperature, or blowing air over the evaporator to cool down the interior in the summer. Therefore, unless this article wants to suggest avoiding using all HVAC as little as possible regardless of the time of year, there isn’t much to support its claim that “heaters put high demands on your battery.” The only exception to this are electric cars, which generate heat very differently than ICE vehicles.

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