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How to Service a Car Battery to Prepare for Winter

A snow-covered car drives through winter weather at night

Wondering how to service a car battery before the nasty winter weather sets in? Make sure your vehicle’s charging system is in tip-top shape before the roughest driving season arrives to avoid any unexpected issues out on the road — like a dead battery in the middle of a snowstorm. Check out these tips for getting your battery winter-ready.

1. Keep It Clean

In order for your vehicle’s electrical system to operate efficiently, the connections between the battery and the rest of the system must be solid. Before the cold sets in:

  • Inspect both the battery electrodes and the clamps they are attached to for any buildup of corrosion, dirt or grease. Corrosion often looks like a white or green powdery substance on or around the terminals.
  • Clean the battery terminals with a wire brush and some baking soda to remove grit from the soft metals used to conduct electricity.
  • Coat the terminals with dielectric grease to prevent corrosion from returning in the future.

Corroded battery terminal

2. Inspect It for Rust and Damage

The cables might also have corrosion wrapped up under their rubberized, insulated coating. What does this look like?

If the cables attached to your battery feel stiff or make cracking sounds when flexed near the terminal attachments, that’s a good sign that they’re corroded inside and need to be replaced. You may also see rust and dust falling from the cable’s ends.

The battery, too, should be given a thorough once-over. If its case has any cracks or is swollen or bowed, that’s an indication that the battery needs to be replaced.

3. Hook It Up, Charge It Up

In general, a battery should be good for five years of driving before it starts to show signs that it’s having trouble holding a charge. If you’re uncertain about your battery’s age, or if you’re approaching that window, take it to your local mechanic to have it tested. A technician can quickly assess a battery’s health by connecting it to a machine that simulates start conditions and the power draw of a standard vehicle. This process will determine if the battery is good to go for another winter.

Stay on top of your battery’s condition at the beginning of the winter, and you’ll greatly reduce the chance of being stranded during colder weather.

Check out all the batteries available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to service a car battery, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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