This is how the drop in temperatures affects

The car battery is a fundamental element in any motor vehicle, even those that are neither hybrid nor electric. All vehicles need a place to store energy, at the very least to get going.

Without the electricity supplied, combustion is not possible with which cars produce enough energy to move, either with gasoline or diesel. It all starts with the battery and, now that it’s cold, this is one of the components that suffers the most.

How a car battery works

Winter Car Battery 1

Cold affects all the components that make up a car. We have already talked about what happens to an engine when we start it cold in winter, but the battery is particularly affected by low temperatures.

Batteries are those boxes that contain the necessary energy to get a car to start, move, have lights and even massage seats. Without that dose of energy that is later recovered through the alternator or with the use of kinetic energy, we would continue to move on horseback or by bicycle.

Winter Car Battery 3

But that recovery is not infinite. A battery can store a limited amount of energy (Ampere-hours, Ah), at a certain intensity in short (Amps, A) with a certain voltage (Volts, V). Although modern cars are quite efficient electrically, batteries have a finite life that generally tends to be shown with special emphasis in winter, when temperatures drop.

Electricity comes from a chemical reaction. Although there are several types of battery, currently the most common are still those of lead-acid: two plates (positive and negative) that are immersed in an electrolyte composed of water and sulfuric acid.

The batteries used in cars are made up of six cells, and each of these cells produces 2 Volts, adding a total of 12 Volts. These cells are discharged each time we use them and recharged again by the chemical reaction itself or by drinking from the alternator, but as the chemical reaction progresses, wear known as sulphation process.

Winter Car Battery 2

When we start up, we need a sufficient amount of tension so that by turning the key (or pressing the corresponding button) the starter motor moves the heat engine, turning the crankshaft. With a multimeter we can check the battery charge status to find a figure that is always above 12 V. From there down, it’s time to think about taking action: either plug the battery into a charger or change the battery.

This occurs because as sulphation progresses, the proportion of sulfuric acid in the electrolyte decreases, causing the voltage produced between the poles of the battery to drop. Consequently, the more times the battery has been charged and discharged, the more it will age.

Battery life when it’s really cold (or when it’s really hot)

Winter Car Battery 4

Extreme temperatures can affect the reaction inside the battery.. For example, extreme heat can cause water to evaporate from the electrolyte. However, the most acute signs of depletion of a car battery show up in winter.

At temperatures close to or below 0ºC the chemical reaction slows down, causing its performance to decline and resulting in unusual laziness in the startup phase. It can also happen that the engine does not move and we only perceive a repetitive click from the engine compartment.

The moment you start the car is when the most energy is needed. Starting a cold engine, having to move all the mechanical parts with an oil in a more viscous state than normal, demands a high tension to turn, something that is accentuated in the periods of lower temperatures.

In Motorpasión | Beyond lead: types of car batteries | The curious case of Slim Borgudd: Formula 1 driver, ABBA battery and European truck champion


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