It’s summer in Wisconsin. You don’t have to worry about your car battery, right? Everyone knows that car batteries only die in winter. NOT TRUE! The heat of our Wisconsin summers is actually harder on our car batteries than the winter. The heat and humidity of our Midwestern summers can actually cause battery fluid to evaporate and damage the internal parts of your battery. So why does everyone believe that you should only worry about your car battery in winter? Many cars do not start in the cold of winter because fluids in the engine turn to the consistency of molasses, meaning it takes maximum battery power that older batteries do not always have.
If you’ve always believed in that old adage about car batteries and winter, you’re not alone. Even though a car battery is one of the most important parts of our automobiles, it’s also one of the parts of our car that, in general, many people seem to know almost nothing about. This is where a little bit of knowledge about the signs of car battery death, when to replace a battery, and how to recharge a dead battery can come in handy, and prevent you from being stranded on the side of the road (or in your garage, or at school, or…):
Know your car battery’s age. You don’t have to throw a birthday party for it every year, but you should have a general idea about how old it is. It seems that everyone has a different idea of the average life of a battery, but most batteries start to give out around the 5-year mark (though we’ve seen customers have problem as early as 3 years.) Another reason to track your car battery’s age: knowing how old the battery is allows you to take the battery back during the warranty period when you have problems.
Inconsistent starting & consistent recharging. We’ve had personal experience with this: your car starts fine most of the time, but is suddenly the battery is suddenly dead and needs to be recharged—but not every time, and unpredictably. If you have to sporadically recharge your battery, even if it starts fine most of the time, you need to replace your battery. Yes, a car battery does die if you leave on interior lights, or some other accessory; but if the battery dies without any reason from time to time, it’s time to buy a new car battery at a local auto shop.
Slow, rough starting. This is the most obvious sign, the long, painful cranking that never seems to end when you are waiting for your car to start. Eventually, the cranking won’t happen, and you’ll be stranded. Buy a battery now—and have your mechanic double check for other causes—-so your car starts consistently.
Carrying a set of jumper cables is essential for anyone who does not want to be stranded by a dead battery (ever left your lights on? You know what we mean). When the day comes when you need those jumper cables, park another car near the front of your car and turn the cars off. Make sure the cars are secured, and use your parking brake if necessary for safety. Then:
- BE CAREFUL! Remember, you are touching an electrical system, and you could get hurt. Be cautious.
- Locate the positive and negative terminals on your battery. A “+” means positive and a “-“ means negative.
- Attach the positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery.
- Attach the other positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the live battery.
- Attach the negative clamp of the jumper cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery.
- Attach the other negative clamp of the jumper cable to a non-moving metal part of the engine. Do not reach into any areas with moving belts or parts.
- Turn on the car that starts for a few minutes. Lightly rev the engine by pressing the gas pedal.
- Start the car with the (formerly) dead battery.
- Remove the jumper cables.
- Enjoy a car that starts.
- Get your battery checked and replaced if necessary.
If you have any questions about whether you need a new car battery, email your question or schedule an appointment to have your car checked. A few minutes of your time, and an education, can keep you and your car on the road—and not dealing with the inconvenience that comes with a dead battery from our Wisconsin summer heat.