Temperatures are dropping fast and snow is falling. You’ve changed your tires, checked your headlights and maybe installed winter-specific wiper blades—everything to prepare your car for the cold season. But what about your car battery? This critical component is often neglected, although it is under even more stress at this time of the year.
According to the latest stats, roughly two out of five breakdowns are due to the battery.
The enemies of a car battery
Cold, ice and snow are not the only causes of strain on the battery in winter. Infrequent use or mainly short trips have an effect on the starting power of the battery.
Continuous use of the windshield heater or the air conditioning system takes a large amount of power and makes heavy demands on the battery. And the only way to avoid unpleasant surprises in winter is to have the battery checked regularly by a trained technician at a repair shop.
“Drivers often have the mistaken idea that the battery does not need to supply energy when the engine is switched off. However, systems such as alarms, door locks, keyless-go functions and navigation systems also need energy when the car is parked. Because modern batteries are maintenance-free, very few drivers have them checked by an expert.”
- Christian Rosenkranz, Vice President Engineering, Johnson Controls Power Solutions.
He says the battery should ideally be checked at the next headlight test or tire change. If the battery needs to be changed, this should be done by a specialist.
A complex component
Modern cars are complex systems equipped with extensive electronics. As the “heart” of the vehicle, the battery supplies all of the electrical components with energy—from the ignition to the entertainment systems. Therefore, it is even more important that the battery functions properly under all conditions.
Special knowledge and special tools are necessary to replace the battery, for example to avoid interrupting the circuit between the battery and the onboard computer. In addition, the battery is often not easy to find and may be complicatedly installed in the trunk or in the floor space.
Because of this, drivers should no longer replace the battery themselves. One false move may result in loss of data in the vehicle control units, reduced reliability of comfort functions such as seat heaters, and under certain circumstances failure of the start-stop system. This may require reprogramming of the electronic components, which is annoying, unnecessary, and above all expensive.
Battery failures can be due to many causes. Battery life is affected by extreme temperatures in summer and winter. An equally critical factor is if the vehicle is left standing for a long period or is only used for short trips. A short journey is usually not sufficient to fully recharge the battery.
Especially in winter, when electronics such as the rear window heater contribute to further discharge of the battery, drivers should make a longer journey at least once per month. A regular battery service should be carried out at a specialized shop at least once a year. This service is usually very affordable and only takes a few minutes.