Buying the right car battery for reliable all-weather motoring

September 19, 2014

Extreme heat or cold is a great way to kill a car battery if it isn't properly maintained or if you don't have the right one for your vehicle. And although you may never have to survive Whitehorse's bitterly icy winters or endure Regina's blistering hot summers, it good practice to keep your car's battery in top shape for any temperature extremes you may encounter. It's the key to trouble-free motoring.

Buying the right car battery for reliable all-weather motoring

As motorists, we've all had this happen:

Your auto battery checked out fine during your last scheduled maintenance service. You double-checked that your lights and radio were off when you parked at the office this morning. Now, at the end of the day, there isn't even so much as a chug when you turn the key in the ignition.

What's wrong?
The first thing to do is check the air temperature – especially if you're bundled up against a record cold snap in Calgary or breathless from a sweltering summer day in Toronto. Chances are that your battery (like you) is also suffering, drained and needs a boost.

The lesson
Even if you've been diligent about maintaining your battery, from time to time you and your battery may have to endure extreme cold or heat no matter where you live or travel in Canada.

How could this have been avoided?
With a little maintenance and knowing which battery best suits your driving needs and the climate.

Cold weather reliability

Do temperatures much lower than freezing mean certain death for any battery? Not always. But who wouldn’t feel great knowing your vehicle's battery was built to stand up to the coldest winter mornings? That's where choosing the right battery matters, even if you never have to drive in Winnipeg when it’s -45 ºC.

Here are some major points to look for in a good, cold-weather battery for your family car.

  • Ask your mechanic or techs at the auto supply store about the cold cranking amps – the CCA right on the battery sticker. They tell you how low the air temperature can plummet and still ensure your battery will produce enough power to start your car.
  • You'll want the highest CCA you need, but be sure to check your vehicle owner's manual for specs to see what the manufacturer recommends.
  • The rule of thumb when it comes to cold cranking amps is that a 700 CCA rating means the battery should start a car at -17ºC. You can measure how much lower you want to go from there, with advice from a trained mechanic.

Reserve capacity
A certified auto technician may have to find this information for you, but also check a battery’s reserve capacity.

  • "Reserve capacity" tells you how long your car can run off the battery’s power at a given load if the alternator fails. Once again, the higher the capacity, the better.
  • Reserve is also important when you make short trips. In the brief period you run the car, the battery may not have sufficient time to recover the energy that's used – thus, it draws upon the reserve charge.

Can heat damage a car battery?

Simply put, yes. How? Consider this:

  • If you feel sapped of energy when temperatures exceed 35ºC or more, then so does your battery. In fact, extreme heat can potentially damage your battery in ways that may not show up immediately. It's really when the thermometer drops and the demands on your car's battery increase that you may notice anything.

The good news? Living in Canada means there are only a few months of the year this might possibly occur, but don't rule it out the next time your car battery gives you trouble.

To help ensure reliable battery service
So that you get the most from your car's battery during the hottest scorchers:

  • Use an extreme-temperature battery with a good warranty – two years.
  • Purchase a battery with a deep reservoir.
  • Buy a corrosion-free battery or clean your battery regularly.
  • Get a regular battery inspection and charge check.
  • Have your mechanic charge up the battery or do it yourself with a battery charger.

Don't hesitate to call for help

Despite your best efforts, sometimes you'll still get stuck with a dead battery and a car that's going nowhere fast. Don't hesitate to call for help in those circumstances.

Know how to safely boost your car?
If you have jumper cables, you'll surely find someone nearby who will share their battery juice with you.

  • If you have a portable jump starter kit in your trunk, you won't need to rely upon the kindness of strangers. You'll be rolling along in no time at all.

Don’t know how to use booster cables?
If you're unsure how to jump-start a dead car battery using booster cables, then don't risk it. Be safe.

  • An automotive battery is full of corrosive chemicals that you should avoid. What's more, the electricity from the car battery you are using to boost your dead battery can provide a serious shock if you don't connect the cables properly.
  • Call your motor club or the nearest garage for a battery boost.
  • In many cities, taxis will offer to boost your car for a fee.

No matter the time of year – the dead of winter or middle of summer – a dead battery is annoying and inconvenient, especially if you've been diligent about your car's care. To ensure your vehicle's battery lasts, it helps to keep it well maintained.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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