Here’s why car batteries give you more hassles in winter

Published Jul 11, 2024


We all know that dreaded sound. It’s freezing outside, you’re running a little late and you’ve just jumped into your car with eager anticipation of the heater warming you up once you hit the road and … Crank ... Crank ... Crank ... Crank ...

Battery problems are a common occurrence for motorists during the winter months because in more ways than one the colder weather creates something of a vicious cycle for weaker ones that have seen better days.

Just starting up your car requires more battery power during winter as the oil inside the engine thickens, making it harder for the engine to turn over.

On top of that the battery’s ability to charge also drops, meaning it won’t recharge as quickly when the vehicle is being driven.

Dewald Ranft, chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) advises motorists to be alert to the warning signs that indicate a battery might be on its way out.

These include a grinding or clicking sound when you start the vehicle, or if it cranks slowly when you turn the ignition.

Another sign is your headlights dimming when the car is idling but brightening when the engine revs.

“While three to five years is a typical lifespan of a battery, various internal and environmental conditions impact on a battery’s long-term health,” Ranft says.

Factors like climate, how far and often you drive and the length of time electronic accessories are plugged into your vehicle are all contributing factors.

Your gadgets can shorten its life span

“It’s important to remember that when your car is not running, the battery continues to supply power to the clock, the anti-theft system, and the other conveniences,” Ranft said.

“Accessories like smartphones and tablets also add to the drain. It therefore makes sense to unplug mobile phones, tablets, chargers and other electronic devices when you don’t need them, especially when the car is turned off.

“While the car battery won’t run down immediately if a device is being charged while the engine is not running, the battery’s capacity over time will be affected from multiple devices drawing current from it,” he added.

The MIWA chairman advises motorists to check that everything electric is turned off when they park overnight as even an interior light, boot light or radio can kill a battery when it’s cold.

It is also advisable to switch off everything electrical before cold-starting your car.

While it might make sense to stretch your battery life until the end, given these hard economic times, that needs to be balanced against the risk of being stranded on the road side.

Most workshops will test your battery for free if you’re unsure, but make sure you stick to an accredited dealer.

IOL Motoring

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car hackscar repairs