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October is Fall Car Care Month: Hot Summer Temps Can Cause Winter Battery Trouble


BETHESDA, Md., Sept. 15, 2010; Following record high temperatures this summer, many car owners could face major car battery problems when winter arrives because heat, more than cold, shortens battery life, according to the Car Care Council. Before winter sets in, make sure your vehicle's battery is operating at peak performance.

More than one out of 10 vehicles inspected during Community Car Care Month events had problems with battery cables, clamps or terminals.

"It is true that there are more road service calls in cold weather for dead batteries that cause starting failure, but many battery problems start long before the temperatures drop," said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "Summer heat is the real culprit. Fall Car Care Month in October is the perfect time to check to see if your car's battery needs charging or replacement. Simple steps can help you avoid the cost and inconvenience of getting stranded in harsh winter weather."

Sooner or later all batteries have to be replaced. Excessive heat and overcharging are the two main reasons for shortened battery life. Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, thus damaging the internal structure of the battery. A malfunctioning component in the charging system, usually the voltage regulator, allows too high a charging rate leading to slow death for a battery. Colder temperatures increase the thickness of the engine oil, making the engine harder to turn over, making the battery work harder. These factors lead to harder starting.

To get the most life out of a battery, the Car Care Council suggests the following:

  --  Be sure the electrical system is charging at the correct rate;
      overcharging can damage a battery as quickly as undercharging.
  --  If your battery is the type that needs to be topped off, check it
      regularly, especially in hot weather. Add distilled water when
  --  Always replace a battery with one that's rated at least as high as the
      one originally specified.
  --  Keep the top of the battery clean. Dirt becomes a conductor, which
      drains battery power. Further, as corrosion accumulates on battery
      terminals it becomes an insulator, inhibiting current flow.

The Car Care Council is a national non-profit organization providing information for the "Be Car Care Aware" consumer education campaign that promotes the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair. For more information, visit