Winter Weather: Check your car battery before the cold sets in, AAA cautions

Winter Resource Guide

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As the temperature outside starts to fall, AAA Northeast is advising Southern New Englanders to take the time to make sure their vehicles are ready for winter.

To avoid potentially getting stranded in freezing conditions down the road, one crucial thing to check right now is your car battery.

John Paul, senior manager of traffic safety at AAA Northeast, says many people don’t realize that batteries can take a hit during the summer months.

“Batteries actually start to become damaged in the summertime,” he explained. “It’s the summer heat that actually affects the chemicals in the battery, but it’s the winter stress that determines whether that battery is going to start the car in the wintertime.”

Each time you have to jumpstart your vehicle, the battery never comes back to 100%, Paul said, adding that said leaving your doors open or lights on can also cause the battery to degrade.

In the Northeast, car batteries usually last around five years, compared to two or three years in warmer states like Florida and Nevada.

Checklist to keep your battery in good shape

  • Drive your car on a regular basis. If you work at home and don’t often leave the house, take a 30-minute ride each week to keep the battery charged.
  • If you haven’t replaced your battery within three years or don’t remember the last time it was changed, bring it to a mechanic to have it tested.
  • Often times, cars don’t start due to poor, dirty, or corroded battery connections. You can remove the battery cables, clean them, and make sure they’re in good shape.

Paul says on an average winter day, AAA receives hundreds of thousands of calls overall, and more than 50% of those are due to failed batteries leaving motorists in need of a tow.

He also noted that if your car gets a jumpstart, it’s important to investigate why it was needed. A jumpstart is a temporary fix, but there still may be a problem with your vehicle.

One key symptom to look for

Once the winter cold sets in, one thing to look for with your vehicle is slow cranking, according to Paul. He said as you turn the key, it’ll feel like it’s dragging and not going to turn over the way it should.

Aside from your battery, other vehicle maintenance you should consider before the winter include getting your oil changed, adding air to your tires, and ensuring your headlights and windshield wipers are working properly.

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