No one likes the idea of heading out to their car in the middle of winter in Chicago, IL just to find that it won’t start or the automatic door locks don’t work. However, if your vehicle’s electrical system has been ignored during the warm months, these issues are likely to arise when you least expect it.
Maintaining your vehicle’s electrical system is not as hard as you might imagine. We have pulled together some simple tips to help keep your vehicle running through the winter – without any inconvenient interruptions.
Drive Your Vehicle Regularly
In order to keep your battery charged, it is important to drive your car on a regular basis. If your car is parked in the garage or a parking lot for a couple of weeks or more, there is a good chance that your battery will fail when you need it. Therefore, if you anticipate that you won’t be driving your vehicle for an extended period, make sure that you start it up and leave it running for 20 to 30 minutes to charge the battery.
If you are going out of town or are unable to start up your car for any reason, and no one will be able to do this for you, disconnect the battery cables before you leave. This will help stop your battery from discharging.
Cut Down on Short Trips
While using your car regularly is good for the charging system, it won’t help if you only take short trips. Your alternator will not have a chance to charge the battery enough to compensate for the electricity it takes to crank the engine to start it. If you must take your car for short runs, drive around for 20 minutes or so – especially if you have just charged a weak or dead battery. Highway driving is even better.
Don’t Leave the Accessories On Without the Engine Running
Never leave the lights or radio on for more than a few minutes if the engine is not running. Doing this will drain the battery and may leave you stranded on a cold night in the middle of nowhere. Additionally, do not leave your key in the ignition – this can kill your battery over the period of a few hours.
Keep Your Battery Clean and Secured in Place
Excess moisture and dirt can interrupt the charging process, leaving your battery dead when you need it most. Corrosion can also be caused by small amounts of acid leaking, further damaging the battery terminals. To avoid this issue, simply clean the terminals with a mild baking soda and water solution and an old toothbrush. Finish by rinsing, drying with an old rag, and applying a light coat of grease (petroleum jelly will work just fine) to keep moisture at bay.
It is a little-known fact that your vehicle’s battery is actually quite delicate. Engine vibration can cause the battery plates to become disoriented, shortening the life of your battery. Vibration can also loosen and damage the terminals – causing the car to stall. These issues are easy to avoid by simply locking the battery in place.
Take Precautions When Jumping a Completely Dead Battery
While it is perfectly normal to call a friend for a jump when your car is dead in the water, if your battery is completely flat (no dashboard or interior lights – just a click when you turn the key), jumping the battery can ruin certain electronics. If you must do this, turn your headlights on to absorb the excess current. This is also a good time to read the vehicle manual to make sure you are doing everything right.
Replace the Battery After 3 or 4 Years
While the lifespan of a battery will be affected by things like driving habits, weather, and charge capacity, most batteries should be replaced after 3 or 4 years. If a battery is advertised as a 5-year battery, and you are on year 4, you may not realize how weak it is until winter sets in and the cold drains the last bit of charge out of it – and that will likely be on a cold winter night after all the auto parts places have closed.
Park Inside The Garage in the Winter
As noted above, batteries discharge much faster during the winter. If you have access to a garage, parking your car in there will help protect your battery from the cold and your car from the elements.
Our Auto Glass Shop Can Repair Your Windows or Door Locks
If your battery is strong, but your electric windows or door locks are just not working correctly, our auto glass shop near Chicago is here to help. At Frank’s Auto Glass, we understand that winter is no time to deal with door and window malfunctions, and our team has the expertise necessary to fix most makes and models the same day. Our expert locksmith can also assist if you lock yourself out of your car, your key breaks off in the ignition, or with any other lock issues you may encounter – just give us a call!