Amy's Amazing Auto Service and Repair Blog

Is Your Car Battery Prepared for the Dark Season Ahead?

by Derek Davidson

Although the average car today is a great deal smarter than its counterpart from a generation ago, it may still rely on certain basic functions to operate. One of these simple functions is provided by the battery and if you want to avoid the simplest of breakdowns, you should pay good attention to its upkeep. What tests should you consider through the year, especially before the winter season rolls around?

Being Prepared

As you know, winter can have darker mornings, lots of rain and cooler temperatures. All of these conditions may make it more difficult for your car to operate but crucially put a great deal of extra load on the battery. You may take its condition for granted for the earlier part of the year when it is not under so much strain, so it's definitely a good idea to get it serviced before winter takes hold.

Specific Gravity Check

You can perform some initial tests if you know how to approach the task and have certain tools in your garage. If the battery is unsealed, you should begin by using a hydrometer to look at the specific gravity. Some batteries may have a built-in hydrometer, but if not, insert the tool into each cell to look for its specific gravity reading. If the number is low, you may need to add more electrolytes before putting the battery through a full charging cycle.

Should the hydrometer test pass without any intervention, you should next check the battery loading. Here you can use a multimeter if you have one on hand.

Battery Load Test

Some experts advise that you turn your car headlights on for a couple of minutes to remove any surface charge it may be holding from the alternator. Then, turn the headlights off and attach the multimeter, adjusted to the recommended setting suggested by the manufacturer. You can do this by attaching one probe to the negative terminal and the other to the positive before you get a reading. Refer to the manufacturer readings for the ideal voltage range, and remember that you may have to adjust the reading based on the ambient temperature.

If the reading is a little low, you should consider putting your battery through a full charge cycle. Occasionally, you may discover a particularly low reading, which suggests that your battery cannot hold a charge and may need replacement.

Getting the Experts Involved Instead

Schedule a battery service if you'd rather not get your hands dirty or don't have any of these tools on hand. A technician will perform all of the checks and advise you what to do next.

Contact a car battery provider to learn more.