Car batteries: getting started in the cold

Car batteries: getting started in the cold
When the temperature drops and your car won't start it's more often than not an issue with your car battery.

Cold, damp weather can play havoc on batteries as vehicle electrical systems have to work a lot harder at this time of year and starter motors require all the current they can get to start the engine on cold mornings.

What to do if your car won’t start and you suspect it is the battery?

A vast number of RAC patrol winter callouts are battery-related, if your car won’t start in the cold and you think the battery needs replacing then call us on 0333 2000 999 for The RAC Battery Fitting Service.

Alternatively you can visit our car battery section to find out which battery you need, we can deliver and fit these for you – and fitting is free for members.

If you are in a hurry and need to get moving fast then you can jump start your car if you have access to jump cables and feel confident enough to do so. We strongly advise following the advice in your owner’s manual on how to jump start your car.

How can I help maintain my battery during the winter?

With more and more vehicle equipment demanding electricity battery maintenance is more important than ever.

Cold temperatures affect the chemical process inside the battery that produces and stores electricity, effectively slowing it down and reducing the battery’s ability to hold the charge.

If you are using your car regularly for short trips, it may be worth charging your battery at least once a week during the winter months, particularly if it is more than three years old.

We would also recommend a car battery comfort indicator to help monitor the battery’s condition.

You can find more about how to charge car batteries on our car battery chargers page.

Older, weaker batteries will typically already have reduced performance and cold temperatures will often drastically reduce this further, to the point where the battery will discharge or go flat very quickly.

If you are finding that the battery isn’t holding a charge very well at all then it might be time to replace it, in which case we would again recommend either visiting our car battery section or calling The RAC Battery Fitting Service on 0333 2000 999

What else can I do to help my battery during winter?

Remember to:

  • Switch off all loads including lights, wipers, heater etc before switching off your engine at the end of your journey. This prevents any unnecessary drain on the battery the next time you start up
  • Check that everything is switched off before turning the ignition on
  • Avoid using heaters, heated screens and heated seats for longer than you have to as they all put high demands on the vehicle’s battery. Some satnavs, in-car DVD players and iPods can also drain the battery if left connected
  • Check that there are no interior lights, including boot lights, left on or any accessories such as phone chargers  left connected
  • Park your vehicle in a garage if you are able to, especially in very cold temperatures
  • Get your battery properly tested, particularly if it is over three years old

And, sometimes it can be difficult just getting into your car. These two tips could save you some much-needed time:

  • Use a little silicone-based furniture polish on the rubber door seals – it helps prevent doors getting stuck when it freezes. It’s best to apply with a cloth so you don’t spray polish on to the vehicle’s paintwork
  • If locks are frozen, try warming your key. You could also inject the lock with the appropriate anti-freeze or spray it with WD40

6 Fitting is Free for RAC members, for non members garage fitting is £9.99 and patrol fitting £30.

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