Why is my car battery dying? How the cold is affecting cars in the winter

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — We’re into the thick of winter and with cold temperatures car batteries are facing problems.

According to AAA, there’s been an increase in the call volume for dead batteries as temperatures are falling and people are staying indoors.

On Thursday, Jan. 18, AAA received a typical January day in just 16 hours rather than 24 hours, with Western and Central New York receiving almost 50% of calls just for car batteries.

“With continued cold temperatures in the forecast, more car batteries are expected to fail especially if the vehicles are not driven for extended periods,” stated AAA.

Although you might want to stay inside with all the snow falling, it might be best to try and start up your car instead of letting it sit as driving your car is the best way to maintain its charge.

“Did you know that a car battery loses a third of its power in freezing temperatures? Why? Because as the air outside cools, the oil in the vehicle thickens making it harder to turn the engine over. Motorists should be aware of signs that show a car’s battery is nearing the end of its life,” stated AAA.

If you want to prevent your car battery from dying in the winter, and a call to AAA, make sure to look out for the following signs of wear:

  • The vehicle cranks slowly when trying to start
  • Grinding, clicking, or buzzing happens when the ignition is turned on
  • The vehicle has stalled
  • The headlights dim when idling, but brighten when the driver revs the engine
  • The battery is more than three years old

This problem isn’t just for cars but for electric vehicles (EVs) as well. Although an electric vehicle is powered by an HVAC system it’s affected the same way as a car battery.

According to a 2019 AAA study, the average EV driving range is decreased by 41% when the mercury dips to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This means for every 100 miles of combined urban or highway driving, the range at 20 degrees Fahrenheit would be reduced to 59 miles.

This is especially true for Tesla EVs as some in Chicago have had to abandon their cars at charging stations because of their cars not charging or charging ridiculously slow because of the cold.

When colder temperatures hit, AAA urges EV owners to be aware of a reduction in range and the need to charge more often to minimize the chance of being stranded by a dead battery. EV owners should also keep their battery charge level above 20% to prevent the car from dying in the bitter cold.

And for normal cars to avoid being stranded due to a battery problem, AAA recommends having the battery inspected at every oil change to make sure the cable connections are clean and tight, and the hold-down hardware is secure.

“Once a battery reaches three years of age, have it tested annually. AAA surveys find that two-thirds of American drivers have never proactively had their car battery tested,” stated AAA.

To learn more about AAA’s free Mobile Battery Service in most areas, weather permitting, click here.

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