The battery is the basic source of electrical power in the car, used primarily to start the engine. When starting, the engine consumes the most energy. At -20 degrees centigrade a new battery has only 40% of its original capacity, while the engine needs three times more power than normally to be started. This is how low temperatures affect the operation of the battery. Car batteries have two basic parameters: capacity (Ah) and the starting current (A). The capacity depends on the size of the battery, so when you buy a new one, follow the recommendations of the manufacturer. The starting current expressed in amperes (A) is very important; the higher the value, the easier the starting of the engine. Problems with power or lack of proper charging are not always caused by the battery. You should first check the electrical system before you decide to change the battery.
Winter is definitely the worst season of the year for the battery. This is when you should regularly check its condition and, if necessary, replace it before severe frost sets in, the more so if you drive your car only occasionally and over short distances.
Assuming that your battery operates at 100 % of its capacity at the temperature of 20 degrees centigrade, its potential decreases to 40% at minus 18 degrees centigrade, affecting the performance of your car. This is why sub-zero temperatures are a true test for the battery. When exposed to low temperatures, the starter consumes more power than in standard conditions. The engine oil, which thickens when exposed to sub-zero temperatures, makes the situation all the more worse. Consequently, in winter, the car battery has to face many more challenges than when exposed to neutral or higher temperatures. Remember that a misused battery may fail you not only in the winter, but also in the summer.
Inadequate power supply is the most frequently encountered issue, especially if you fail to check your battery in the autumn. What affects its operation?
The basic problem is driving over short distances. The starter motor consumes a lot of energy to start the engine, but a short-distance drive is not enough for the alternator to charge your battery, which eventually runs out of power altogether. In order to properly charge the battery you need to drive your car for at least eight hours straight.
You face a similar problem when driving mostly in traffic jams, with the engine running at a low speed, unable to produce enough power to meet the growing needs of your car. But when you're standing in a traffic jam, you rarely think about how much energy your car needs to power more and more devices, such as heated seats, windows or mirrors.
The battery is also affected when you don't use your car for a longer period of time. When not used, you car may seem inactive, but in fact it still consumes the power generated by the battery, e.g. to maintain the operation of the on-board computer, the clock and the alarm system.
How to select the right battery?
To do this, you need to analyse a lot of variables, including the battery type, its capacity and power. The first thing you should look at, though, is the size. There are a lot of different batteries to choose from, both in terms of size and technical properties. Before you buy a new battery, make sure that it fits in the battery compartment of your car.
Remember to consider not only the size, but also the shape of the battery, as they are fitted in a number of ways. Some are attached from the bottom and some from the top. The battery must fit the battery compartment in such a way as to be prevented from moving while you drive, as a result of which its terminals may hit against metal elements, causing short-circuits.
After making sure that a given battery will fit in your car, you can look at its capacity, i.e. the amount of power it holds before it is discharged while operating at 25 degrees centigrade. This is expressed in amp-hours (Ah). The higher the value, the more likely a battery is to last longer. However, you must always follow the manufacturer's recommendations in this respect. If the battery you choose is too weak, you may have problems starting your engine in the winter.
The third value to consider when choosing a battery is the inrush current, expressed in amperes (A), that a battery is capable of generating when the engine is first turned on. This is very important, especially in the winter. This value is provided in relation to the temperature of -18 degrees centigrade. The better the parameters, the more likely you are to start your car.
Car batteries can be divided into three types:
Batteries with liquid electrolyte - the most popular type of batteries, fitted in most cars.
AGM batteries. These batteries are fitted in hybrid engine cars and cars used more often than normally. They consume less electrolyte and generate more power.
* Gel batteries. They cannot be used for starting a car. They come in handy when you need to store power for later use, for example, to power a camping trailer. They have a greater capacity as instead of electrolyte they are filled with an acid mixed with silica.
Batteries can also be divided into serviceable and maintenance-free devices. The previous require to be refilled with electrolyte. This is an outdated technology and is rarely used nowadays. Most modern batteries are maintenance-free. Their acid chambers do not open, nor do they have to be refilled with electrolyte. All you have to do is regularly control its level and replace the battery, when necessary.
How often should a battery be replaced?
You can tell its condition by the colour on the battery indicator. This so-called magic eye changes its colour depending on the thickness of the electrolyte. The colour is black when the battery is discharged and green if charged. In addition, you can buy a tester allowing you to check your battery status by connecting it to the cigarette lighter port inside your car.
You should not use a battery for more than 6 years. If you have a diesel engine car, you should replace the battery every four years, preferably every two years.
If you need professional consulting regarding batteries, check out one of our Motointegrator Parner garages. This is a chain of nearly five thousand garages nationwide. The cost of replacing a battery starts at PLN 20. Use the search engine to find the nearest garage or call us to make an appointment at your convenience.
How to keep you battery powered?
It's very simple. All you need to do is drive a lot. The alternator charges the battery providing it with optimal conditions to power the entire electrical system of your car. If you use your car only occasionally, you can always charge your battery with a charger. A good idea is to buy additional insulation to cover the battery with and ensure it keeps its temperature even a few hours after turning off the engine.