If you don’t understand the innermost workings of a battery, they can come off as intimidating little utilities. Ever seen a AA battery explode under pressure? There will be a fair amount of strange acid leaking from the container. Leaking acid is never a sign that goes unnoticed. Just that: a tiny pack of power, can come off as a strange mystery that we don’t understand. When we discuss summer safety tips for your car, we have to mention things involving that mysterious thing running your car’s power.
Ever tried to start a car with a dead battery? It doesn’t start. Tada.
Your day has then run into a hurdle that can throw an entire schedule off balance. You’re late for work. You’re stuck in a random parking lot. There’s no help in sight.
Furthermore, danger (especially to your battery) becomes more prevalent in the heat of the summer. Like most things, excessive exposure to high heat is not great, especially for your car battery. Don’t be stranded looking for a jump. Here are summer safety tips for your car battery.
What Does Heat Do to a Car Battery?
There is a common misconception about the longevity of car batteries. It is often thought that car batteries have a harder time making it through chilly winter months than summer. Most drivers find themselves stuck with a dead battery on the coldest mornings. The concept makes sense in theory, but it is actually incorrect. In fact, AAA reported that they received over 1.8 million battery-related service calls in the summer of 2018.
Another crazy fact. Batteries in cold climates have a life expectancy of 51 months, while those in warm climates reach about 30 months.
Are car batteries actually harmed in the summer or is this just all one big coincidence?
An outside temperature of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for your automotive battery. When temperatures rise over 86 degrees, the chemical reactivity within the battery begins to spike. This increase in activity can cause wear and tear on your battery’s grid, causing grid erosion. Grid erosion leads to the decomposition of the lead alloy. Ultimately, this process causes the life of a battery to be significantly impacted.
Overall, extreme heat will not cause your battery to break down instantaneously but will cause problems over time. Damage in the summer can lead to problems in the winter. Chemical reactions have a slower reaction time in cold temperatures. So, once you’ve done damage in the summer, the battery is likely to falter in the winter.
Furthermore, heat can cause the battery to increase its discharging cycle. It can begin discharging within 24 hours, while it take days during the colder months. As we stated, chemical reactions take longer in cold weather. These physics can be negative, too. The increase in reaction time causes a battery to die quicker in heat.
So, yes. Car batteries have a hard time in the winter, but it’s mostly due to the damage done in the summer.
How do you stop this? Here are those summer safety tips we promised.
1. Increase Your Time Driving
It may seem like a hassle to walk to your local store instead of driving (especially when the heat index is blistering), but it is better for your vehicle in the long run.
Quick trips cause the battery to drain and do not give the alternator enough time to recharge the cells. While a few short trips will not lead to the decimation of your battery, a summer full of little drives will wreak havoc on the longevity of your vehicle. Henceforth, you want to aim toward driving your car for at least 20-to-30 minutes at a time. This length will give your alternator enough time to recharge the battery.
This pointer acts as two summer safety tips. With the devastating rise in current gas prices, avoiding short trips can lead to saving some money.
Sure. Walking to the local coffee shop may seem like a sweaty endeavor, but it can save you money and extend the life of your vehicle parts.
And you get exercise! Win-win-win.
2. Continue to Drive, Though
We tend to contradict ourselves with a lot of these articles. Summer safety tips can be a bit confusing. Vehicles are extremely complex creations, though. Some mechanics and physics apply that are confusing to the untrained mind.
While you want to avoid short trips in the summer, you don’t want to avoid driving altogether. Don’t drive! But also, don’t don’t drive.
See? Now we are all confused.
Ultimately, a car that doesn’t move doesn’t allow its battery to charge. The alternator never gets a chance to run. Therefore, the battery never gets replenished after a discharge. As we said, a battery discharges faster in heat, so alternators need to be run often.
Fortunately, normal driving periods will make sure this event does not occur. If you plan on parking your car for a prolonged time, be sure to start the engine every once in a while. Even if you just allow the car to run parked, it’s still better than not running at all.
3. Keep Your Car Out of the Sun
Keeping your vehicle in the shade or garage is one of the most important summer safety tips. Fortunately, this extra effort doesn’t just improve the vehicle’s battery life but a host of other things, too. Overall, leaving a car in direct sunlight during sweltering months has a plethora of negative effects. Windshield cracks can spread, interiors can become damaged and car batteries can take the brunt of the damage.
While it may be impossible to escape the sun entirely, you should attempt to park in shade or garages when possible. Ultimately, parking away from direct sunlight will decrease the heat in the vehicle. Heat is bad for your battery; less heat equals fewer problems! It’s that simple.
4. Cut Down on Power Sucking Appliances
As we’ve noted (too many times now), excessive heat increases the rate at which your car battery discharges. Therefore, having extra devices plugged into the vehicle can cause higher wear on the battery.
No, having multiple phone chargers or devices will not kill your battery during the summer, but it will decrease its longevity. If you want to extend the battery’s shelf life, be wary of how many power-sucking devices you have plugged in at once. Every single thing you plug into your car’s power outlets puts strain on the battery and alternator.
If it’s unnecessary, cut it.
5. Keep Your Battery Clean
This tip shouldn’t only be followed during hot months. Your battery should always be kept clean. Unfortunately, increases in temperature and chemical activity are more likely to cause an excess of corrosion than colder months.
Keep an eye on your car’s battery. Dirt and grease can trap heat around the battery, causing wear and tear to be more significant. If you notice corrosion around the battery’s nodes, use a mixture of baking soda and warm water to get rid of it. Scrub away with a toothbrush. Just not the toothbrush you actually use to brush your teeth, please.