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Jul 26, 2019

7 min. read

The constant need to ‘plug-in’ is a perpetual task in today’s world. Smartphones, cameras, even some running shoes require juice to work as advertised. What’s the battery most of us forget about even though it gets used every day? That’s right – the one in our car and is routinely ignored until needed or fails to work properly. It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of car parts!

It isn’t a surprise to anyone living in Canada that cold weather takes a toll on your car’s battery. A simple no-start condition on a -40C morning when trying to make it to the hockey rink is a common occurrence in this country. But have you ever thought about what the summer’s oppressive heat is doing to that very same battery? Intense heat can cause just as much havoc as frigid cold. Why? There are two main reasons.

Heat and your car battery.

First, drivers tend to demand more from their vehicle’s systems during the summer. Air conditioning and higher fan speeds (both for passenger and engine cooling) are but two examples. This leads us to the second reason – heat, and lots of it.

Inside that black battery casing is a fluid mixture, some of which is water. Grade school taught us that water evaporates in heat, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it does so here as well. This watery mix is an electrolyte solution that stores the battery’s charge and the chemical reaction that takes place results in power that is used to start your car. If one of the elements of that electrolyte solution – water, for example – is not present in the correct amount, the battery will be less efficient.

In these extreme conditions, short drives don’t help the situation. A traditional lead-acid car battery is kept topped up on juice by the vehicle’s alternator. Quick jaunts may draw more energy from the battery than has been provided, especially since the car draws heavily on battery power on startup. A 10km errand run in a heat wave during which a driver starts and stops at multiple stores is infinitely harder on a battery than a highway journey, for example.

Such habits can also affect the distribution of the cell fluid inside the battery casing, leading to a problem. When the battery dwells at low charge it can become stratified, which means the unit’s acid concentration is denser at the bottom than top. Take a quick look and see where the terminals reside on most car batteries to explain why this can be a problem.

A woman looking at her phone while standing next to a red car with its hood open.

How to prevent a summertime battery calamity.

Park in a shady place if you can, and pay attention to dashboard warning lights. Also, know that as a CAA Member you’ve got access to roadside service calls during which a CAA Battery technician can drop by and check your car’s battery for you1. Give us a call at: 1-833-771-3395 to set up a test at no additional charge to your membership2.

Have questions?

CAA Auto Advice provides Members with free automotive advice about car care, buying a new or used vehicle, auto repairs, vehicle inspection, driving costs and more. If you have a question for the Auto Advice team, give us a call at: 1-866-464-6448 or email: autoadvice@caasco.ca.

Article Written by: Matthew Guy

Terms & Conditions

¹ CAA Members automatically receive Member-exclusive pricing on the purchase of a new CAA Premium Battery, compared to the retail (non-member) price. CAA mobile Battery Service Member benefit subject to availability by geographical area. Call 1-800-222-4357 for location details. CAA Battery representatives will deliver, install and recycle your battery at no extra cost, upon purchase of a new CAA Premium Battery.

² CAA Members automatically receive Member-exclusive pricing on the purchase of a new CAA Premium Battery, compared to the retail (non-member) price.

CAA SCO and Service Providers may refuse to provide certain battery service if it is deemed unsafe (in CAA SCO or Service Provider’s sole opinion), when installation cannot be performed at the roadside, or if the battery is under warranty.

Prices quoted do not include taxes. Prices vary based on vehicle engine size. Service operators will verify size when testing the battery. Stock is limited to conventional lead-acid batteries, with coverage available for most vehicles excluding hybrids.

Service Providers will deliver, install and recycle your battery at no extra cost, upon purchase of a new battery. Battery Services may not be available in your area. This will count as one (1) service call unless a new battery is purchased at the time of the call. However, an unsuccessful battery service that results in a towing service call, will count as a single service call.

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