As temperatures plummet to bone-chilling levels, your car becomes more than just a means of transportation—it can be your lifeline in the freezing cold. When temperatures reach the level of "extreme cold" batteries are a common reason for vehicles not starting. Today, we wanted to provide a handful of tips and tricks to help keep your car battery from freezing.
Why Do Car Batteries Freeze?
When the weather starts getting colder, your battery can lose some of its charge. The colder the temperatures, the worse batteries tend to fare. When a standard lead acid battery is drained of its charge and left in extremely cold temperatures, it becomes prone to freezing. Since acid acts similarly to water, when it freezes, it expands. In mild cases, the housing of the battery will swell along the sides, in extreme cases, the sides of the case can blow out leaving the lead plates exposed. After a battery has frozen, it usually means it's toast. A battery that is holding a charge is unlikely to freeze.
How can I prevent my battery from freezing in extreme cold?
There are a few solutions to keeping your battery from freezing which include:
- Parking your vehicle inside
- Battery blankets or warmers
- Battery tenders or chargers
- Disconnecting the battery
- Installing an AGM battery
Parking your vehicle inside
This answer is probably a bit of a "well duh" answer, but ultimately, one of the best ways to keep your battery from freezing in the winter is keeping it out of sub-zero temperatures. Keeping your battery warm can go a long way to keeping it from freezing.
Battery blankets/battery warmers
As previously stated, keeping your battery warm will go a long way to keeping it from freezing. If you don't have access to a garage or parking bay, a battery blanket/warmer might be your next best alternative. Battery warmers look like a band that wrap around all sides of your battery. Once it is installed over the sides of the battery, it gets plugged into your standard 120 volt outlet. Depending on the model and design you choose, the battery warmer might periodically turn on and warm the battery, or it might stay constantly warm the battery the entire time it's plugged in. Battery warmers can cost anywhere from $40-$120 depending on the model and size.
*Reminder, if you use a battery warmer, remember to unplug it before you drive away.
If a battery warmer isn't going to work for your vehicle, a battery charger or tender is another great option for keeping your battery charged. A battery tender is usually a low-amperage charger that helps maintain a charge on your battery. When your battery is charged, it is considerably less likely to freeze. When purchasing a battery tender, try to find one that has an automatic shutoff to prevent overcharging. A battery tender will need to be plugged into a standard 120 volt outlet to be functional.
Disconnecting the Battery
In the event that you don't have access to a power supply, there is another option. Disconnecting the terminal from the battery post is an easy, low-tech option for cutting power from the battery to the rest of the vehicle. Note, never remove a battery terminal while the vehicle is running.
Most vehicles draw some level of power from the battery at all times. In the extreme cold, even the most minor draws in power can result in the battery discharging and freezing. If you disconnect one of the battery cables after you get to where you're going, it removes any chance of a draw discharging your battery.
Using a quick disconnect battery terminal can make it so that terminals can be removed easily without any tools. If you're planning on parking your vehicle for an extended period of time (more than two days) it might be worth it to remove the battery entirely and bring it inside. If you do decide to bring a battery to your house or garage, do not store it on cement as this can discharge the battery. Instead, place it on a sheet of wood or a small stack of cardboard.
Installing AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) Batteries
Another option isn't as helpful as some of the other options, but still certainly has its merits. If your old battery is dead and cannot be reconditioned, replacing your battery with an AGM battery can make for a more durable option. AGM batteries are more expensive, but they are specifically designed for harsher climates. They are not as prone to freezing as traditional lead acid batteries.
Will Plugging My Car In Prevent My Battery From Freezing?
No. A block heater or oil pan heater cord when plugged in has no impact on the charge or warmth of the battery. That being said, in extremely cold temperatures, you should still plug your vehicle in, it just won't have any impact on your vehicle's battery.
How long do Car Batteries Last In Canada?
With Canada's harsh climates and drastic temperature changes from summer to winter, batteries tend to suffer a little more wear and tear. Generally speaking, you can expect a battery to last between 3-6 years. Of course, this depends entirely on the conditions in which the battery is operating. This number can vary widely depending on the type of battery, the type of vehicle, the number of electrical components, the climate the battery is in, and many more. Most auto part stores offer a 2-5 year battery warranty depending on the model you decide to purchase.
When the weather hits the point of extreme cold, many components of vehicles are at risk of failing. Cold weather can impact tires, coolant systems, power steering systems, and especially the battery. If you're parking your vehicle outside in cold weather, you may want to consider how to best keep your battery warm and/or charged. In the event that you're stuck in an extreme cold situation with a dead battery, you may still have options.
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