27th, January 2017
How to avoid a flat car battery
Winter weather can kill battery life, but the RAC patrol bring you some top tips to keep starting in the cold
All parts of your car need looking after, but if you've got a flat battery, it doesn't matter if your engine is in peak condition - it simply won't start. The colder weather can negatively affect batteries, with the low temperatures changing the chemical processes within the battery meaning it doesn't work as efficiently as it should.
Trying to start your car only to be met by a flat battery can have a devastating effect on your morning so it makes sense to keep your battery in tip-top condition during the winter months. Flat batteries are the number one cause of breakdown callouts during winter. Below are essential tips to avoid this:
1. Keep driving
Batteries are put under more strain when doing lots of short journeys - there's simply not enough time for the engine and alternator to recharge it to the previous level. Try to do some longer journeys to give the car a chance to recharge itself. Alternatively, invest in an external battery charger.
2. Switch off
It's easy to forget just how much equipment there is in modern cars that can strain the battery. The big ones are the heater and the lights, but remember to unplug items from the 12V socket and any USB ports. Check your interior lights, too - leaving them on overnight could be a costly mistake.
3. Ease the strain
Depressing the clutch when starting the engine can help take the strain off your car. It reduces the effort needed to start, and therefore takes away some of the load on the battery.
4. Check your battery
You can do a visual check every time you lift the bonnet to look for corrosion, but it’s worth getting a professional inspection, too. If you’ve bought a used car, check the manual and make sure the previous owner had the correct battery installed. A new battery could be a worthy investment.
5. Check other battery-related systems
If you’re concerned, get a professional to check over the alternator, starting system and charging systems for the car and battery. If any of these are malfunctioning, it could result in the battery being overcharged, undercharged or in some cases not charged at all – all of which will affect battery life.
6. Service your car
A poorly maintained vehicle can put extra strain on the battery – from underinflated tyres to an overworked engine. And if you have a garage, keep your car in it; warmer temperatures are better for batteries.
7. Know the warning signs
Noises like clicks as you turn the ignition, dashboard lights going dim or the engine turning over very slowly are all signs that a battery is flatter than it should be.
8. Don’t persevere
A battery won’t magically regain charge; if it fails to start the engine, stop trying, as you’ll only flatten it further for no reason. Completely flattening a battery damages it.
9. Safety first
If you’ve conked out in a dangerous place – next to a junction, for example – try to get the car somewhere safer before continuing. See if some passers-by will help push.
10. Be ready to jump start
In an emergency, you may need to jump start the car. Keep a set of jump leads in the boot and learn the procedure.