Summer heat could be worse on your car battery than its winter weather cohort. Hotter temperatures have a greater impact on the power-generating mechanics inside your battery than cold temps. According to roadside service provider AAA, car batteries typically last from three to five years. The life span is typically from 58 months or more in the furthest northern regions of the U.S., down to less than 41 months in the most southern areas. With the onslaught of COVID-19 this year, our daily commutes have changed and so has the battery usage in our cars.
AAA reported that service calls for battery problems have increased by more than 20 percent, while most other vehicle issue calls have decreased. They attribute the increase in battery calls due to vehicles staying parked for long periods of time while most places of business and commerce are closed and most people aren’t driving as much as they normally would. I think we can all agree that this year has been far from normal so far!
Calls for service for battery issues were 9,368 in April 2019 and 11,215 this past April, according to AAA data.
Do you wonder why? It’s the HEAT and lack of use!
Hot summer temperatures pose the greater threat to battery life by driving up the heat under the hood of your car. This excessive heat is the beginning of battery failure. As a result, many motorists wind up stuck on the roadside in the summer heat.
Drivers need to be proactive about checking, servicing and replacing batteries. In order to do this, I have listed some tips below that can keep you from burning up over your battery this summer.
- Schedule a check-up for your car, including the battery: Take your vehicle to your preferred mechanic for the usual oil change, fluid check, and tire check. Don’t be among the two-thirds of Americans who've never had their car battery tested, ask your garage to do that too.
- Have the mechanic check the battery’s charge, the condition of the terminals, and how securely it’s mounted in the engine bay. You want to be sure the electrical system is charging at the correct rate; overcharging can damage a battery as quickly as undercharging.
- Test your car battery load annually if it is 2 years + old and if you live in a warmer climate or after its 4 years old if you live in a colder climate. Doing this will test its ability to hold voltage while being used. The results will let you know when it’s time to start shopping.
- Check your battery’s age: The battery’s age should be considered if you are experiencing issues and are considering a replacement. The manufacture date can be found on the sticker on the top or side of the battery. A battery made in October 2018 will have a numeric code of 10-8 or an alphanumeric code of K-8. “A” is for January, “B” is for February, and so on (the letter “I” is skipped).
- Top off your battery: If you have a battery type that needs to be topped off, check it regularly, especially in hot weather. Add distilled water when necessary.
- Make sure you keep the top of the battery clean: Dirt becomes a conductor and will drain battery power. As corrosion accumulates on battery terminals it becomes an insulator, inhibiting current flow.
- Drive your car: Try to avoid leaving your vehicle parked unused for long periods of time. If you are not going to drive your car for a while at least crank it and let it run idle or just take a spin around the block.
Hopefully, these tips will keep your battery cool and running long into the fall!