Batteries – can yours last the distance?

Posted on February 22nd, 2018 by Rob Marshall

Batteries - can yours last the distance?

It has been a while, since I blogged last on batteries, but the recent sudden cold weather snaps have prompted me to do so, because the weather is not only catching-out ailing parts but can also destroy healthy items, too.

The effects of cold weather on batteries.

Batteries work harder in low temperatures, especially as engines are tougher to turn over in the cold. They are also less likely to be recharged fully by the car’s alternator, too, because electrical accessories (lights, heaters, et al) are in greater demand at this time of year. Unless the battery is charged fully, it will deteriorate gradually, until it cannot summon sufficient energy to start the engine on a cold morning, leaving you stranded.

Most cars utilise a lead-acid battery. As it deteriorates, it develops a high internal resistance and this means that it can ‘trick’ the car’s electrical system into thinking that it is charged fully, when it is not. This leads to further battery degradation.

The dangers of jump starting

Putting off replacement is tempting but it can damage your car’s delicate computer systems, which are sensitive to voltage fluctuations. During engine cranking, with a tired battery, the voltage drop can be so severe that software corruption can occur.

Alternatively, jump-starting a modern vehicle in the traditional way, using another car, can create voltage spikes that can cause severe damage to an electrical system. Therefore, be wary of asking other motorists for help to get you going, using this method.

What you can do

For emergency use, invest in a jump-pack. Some of these can be as small as a mobile telephone and can be charged via the cigarette lighter. Yet, the main option is to keep your existing battery full of charge. As they are sealed units, modern batteries are at risk of being overcharged by old-style trickle chargers. Investing in a smart charger is a prudent move, which will not only prevent overcharging but many types can help reverse the damaging internal chemical reactions that have been caused by operating the battery for long periods at any less than full charge levels.