The last hot days of 2019 are upon us and if you think winter weather is going to be rough on your car’s battery, consider that summer heat is even worse. Hot summer temperatures pose a 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. Hotter temperatures have a greater impact on the power-generating chemistry inside your battery than cold temps.
Last year alone, AAA reported that it received 1.8 million battery-related service calls in the summer of 2018. According to them, 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.
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.
- Have your car battery load tested 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: 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.