Fight Back Against Battery Heat Fatigue

Intense heat batters a car battery. And that’s a problem, especially as we ask more from our vehicle’s charging system than ever before.

Fortunately, some basic maintenance might help stretch your battery through the season.

“We’re asking our charging systems to put out a lot of power,” said Kimbrough, nicknamed “Mr. Battery” and the co-author of Interstate’s technical manual. “The variety of wants and needs has increased, and the battery suffers.”

Regular inspection, clean terminals and routine testing of a battery’s charge level make all the difference, he added. Maintenance is especially important in summer, when high temperatures accelerate corrosion and can evaporate the water inside the battery.

"Summer heat is often more damaging to batteries than winter cold,” said Gale Kimbrough of Interstate Battery.

Traditionally, a dead battery could be chalked up to something as simple as leaving an interior light on overnight, Kimbrough said. Modern vehicles are more complex and could require more sleuthing to discover the source of the power drain.

“On many vehicles today, the electronic devices do not immediately shut-off or go into sleep mode immediately after the key is shut off,” Kimbrough said. “Sometimes the vehicle’s computer system will stay alive for five to 15 minutes or more.”

The amount of driving and length of your trips also plays into battery wear and tear.

“People who drive sporadically or consistently drive short trips often encounter discharged batteries due to the increased parasitic drains,” he said.

Kimbrough had the following suggestions to avoid getting stuck with a dead battery this summer:

  • Inspect your vehicle’s charging system every three months or every oil change. Batteries that are more than three years old should be tested more frequently.
  • Ask your service advisor to test the battery’s power retention capability. A weak battery may be able to turn over your vehicle’s engine at home and go dead when you travel to a mountain retreat.
  • Inspect the battery for leaks, cracks or bulging. Any one of these symptoms means it’s new battery time. A corrosive stew of chemical reactions slops around inside the battery. A cracked, leaking or swollen battery poses serious safety hazards for you and your vehicle.
  • Check for corrosion around the cables. Rust and crust on the terminals can diminish the effectiveness of your vehicle’s battery and must be removed.
  • Always get the battery checked before taking a long road trip. Have a professional mechanic inspect battery cables, posts and fasteners.