How to make sure your car stays powered up this winter

The current icy temperatures across South Africa should serve as a wake-up call for car owners to ensure their batteries are not adversely affected by the cold. Unlike cell phone batteries, the health of a car’s battery is not reflected on any gauge.

“While a visit to your friendly Supa Quick franchise will quickly provide a comprehensive report on the health of your car battery, car owners should definitely keep an eye out for tell-tale signs that their batteries are being negatively affected by the cold,” says Neil Visser, Regional Operations Manager, Supa Quick Head Office “The cold weather affects the chemical reactions within the battery, which is why winter is regarded as an especially difficult time for batteries. ”

Visser says that the reduced efficacy of the battery’s chemical reactions will become material if the battery is already underperforming and could result in not enough current being generated to start the vehicle.

Here are some simple tips for keeping your battery healthy, so that even when cold weather impairs its functioning, the car will still start:

Get the battery fully charged. Too many short trips mean that the battery does not get fully charged. Longer drives at regular intervals will ensure that the battery is fully charged.

Restrict all those added extras. Heaters, lights and top-of-the-range sound systems are guzzlers of power. When you’re trying to get the battery fully charged, turn them off. In addition, don’t run them when the engine is switched off—there is no surer way to drain a battery.

Check the battery for corrosion and tight connections. Keeping an eye on your battery’s surface is a worthwhile routine. All the protective covers should be in place, and the connections snugly tightened. Any grime or white crystal-like residue around the terminals will impact the battery’s performance. To clean the terminals, make sure the vehicle is off and loosen the terminals. If there is grime or other residue, remove it with an old toothbrush dipped in bicarb, wipe it clean with a damp rag and smear the terminals with petroleum jelly to prevent further corrosion before reconnecting.

Get the battery professionally checked. Get your battery professionally checked annually, advises Visser. “Many Supa Quick clients don’t realise that the franchises offer much more than just new tyres—and professional battery services and replacement through an alliance with Willard is one of the value adds,” he says. “Make sure your battery gets the same level of Supa Quick care as your tyres.”

Ensure the car is properly maintained. The battery is an integral part of the engine, and so is affected by its overall health. A poorly functioning, poorly maintained vehicle will place more of a strain on the battery.

Park your car under cover. Low ambient temperatures can cause battery failure. If covered parking is not an option, consider a car cover or at least a sheltered place.

Know the warning signs and be prepared for emergency starting. At ignition, if you hear a clicking sound, or the engine turns over slowly, you could have a battery issue. Another sign is when lights dim when the engine is idling and brighten when accelerating. Make sure you carry jumper cables or a battery booster to ensure that you can get the car started if you are ever caught with a flat battery. “Just make sure you understand how to use the jumper cables safely or consult your vehicle’s manual—improper jump starting can cause a fire,” Visser advises.

The battery is a part of the overall vehicle ecosystem that is easy to overlook, especially now that most of them are sealed and don’t require regular top-ups of distilled water,” Visser says. “But when your car’s battery malfunctions, you realise how important it is. Follow these simple tips to ensure you are not caught out this winter.”