Bitter temperatures can wreak havoc on your car's battery. In cities like Chicago, Minneapolis and Buffalo, temperatures can dip well below zero in January, making car batteries weak and unable to provide the power to start the car. The best way to prepare for frigid temperatures is to check your battery power in advance of the cold season. Many people in these climates use methods to keep their batteries warm during cold, winter nights, so that their cars will be ready to start in the morning.
Store your car in a garage overnight. If you don't have your own garage, you may be able to rent someone else's garage space during the winter. This will help to keep the car and battery out of the cold wind, making it easier to start in the morning. Heat the garage, if possible, to keep the temperature warmer.
Wrap your battery in a battery blanket, which is an insulated sheet of plastic that preserves battery warmth. Wrap the blanket around the battery for the night. Remove before starting the car in the morning.
Install an engine block heater, which is a small heating device installed in the engine that plugs into a wall socket. It warms the engine and oil and keeps the battery in optimal condition for start-up. Engine block heaters are not expensive, but they must be installed properly by a mechanic.
Place a thick blanket and hot water bottles on the battery. This is an inexpensive way to keep the battery warm during the night and will not raise your electric bills. Fill two water bottles with hot water and stopper carefully. Wrap the bottles in a thick blanket and place over the battery in the engine compartment. Remember to remove the bottles and blanket before starting the car.
Take out the battery and keep in inside for the night. Disconnect the battery wires from the terminal. Batteries are heavy, so use care when lifting. Store the battery on a concrete surface, if possible, and ensure the battery does not leak. Indoor temperatures will keep the battery warm during the night. In the morning, put the battery back into the car and connect it to the terminals.
- If you have had a battery more than five years, replace it.
- Always use care when handling your battery. Batteries contain a strong acid that can severely burn skin.
- Do not attempt to jump start or charge a frozen battery. Allow the battery to warm for 40 minutes before charging.