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Is Extreme Cold A Battery Killer?

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  • Electrical: Is Extreme Cold A Battery Killer?

    Hi Guys,

    After sitting in the extreme cold (for this part of the northeast anyway) for around 7 weeks, I found that my 18 month old battery was dead (read around 2 volts). So I charged it up and started the car and all was well. Went out a week later and battery was down to 6 volts. So I charged it again and staretd the car up. All good. Let it set for 3 days went out and again battery was going dead again, down to 6 volts or so.

    During the past weeks the temps have been extraordinarily cold for these parts, and a number of nights the temps went down below 0 and on two occasions the temps went -6 and -7 below. The last few days have been the first that the temps have gone above freezing.

    Can that kind of cold damage a battery???????? I can understand if the battery was 5 or more years old, but this one is only 18 months?



  • #2
    Has the battery remained connected to the vehicle's electrical system during all this? If so, you may have a drain there, and it is not a good idea to leave a battery connected during periods of storage like that anyway.

    If it is draining down like that all by itself (i.e., disconnected from the vehicle so there is no possibility of drain), then it sounds weak. It's easy enough to take it in for a test the next time it is fully charged, so that would be advisable. BP
    We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

    Ayn Rand:
    "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

    G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.


    • #3
      I agree with Bob. Cold weather is hard on a battery, but it sounds like you have a power drain somewhere. I always disconnect my battery if the car is going to sit very long.
      "In the heart of Arkansas."
      Searcy, Arkansas
      1952 Commander 2 door. Really fine 259.
      1952 2R pickup


      • #4
        In short, no. Cold weather does not harm an inactive battery. Here's the long version.

        Battery capacity in cold cranking ampere hours is reduced as temperature goes down, and increased as temperature goes up. This is why your car battery dies on a cold winter morning, even though it worked fine the previous afternoon. If your batteries spend part of the year shivering in the cold, the reduced capacity has to be taken into account when sizing the system batteries. The standard rating for batteries is at room temperature - 25 degrees C (about 77 F). At approximately -22 degrees F (-27 C), battery AH capacity drops to 50%. At freezing, capacity is reduced by 20%. Capacity is increased at higher temperatures - at 122 degrees F, battery capacity would be about 12% higher.

        Even though battery capacity at high temperatures is higher, battery life is shortened. Battery capacity is reduced by 50% at -22 degrees F - but battery LIFE increases by about 60%. Battery life is reduced at higher temperatures - for every 15 degrees F over 77, battery life is cut in half. This holds true for ANY type of lead-acid battery, whether sealed, gelled, AGM, industrial or whatever. This is actually not as bad as it seems, as in most climates, the battery will tend to average out the good and bad times.

        So prolonged hot weather is actually more harmful to battery life than cold.

        jack vines


        • #5
          A battery with no charge or a low charge can freeze. It would probably show signs of freezing, like a break in the case, but maybe not. My battery was running down with constant driving and my auto electric guy tweaked my voltage regulator and I haven't had a problem since. Good luck.
          Dave Warren (Perry Mason by day, Perry Como by night)


          • #6
            Adding to the previous comments, any lead acid battery will discharge with time whether connected or not due to internal currents. How long this takes is dependent on the overall quality of the battery. Up until recently (50 years or so ago) it was common to check the specific gravity of the individual cells. This gave a good indication of the battery charge level and relative condition of individual cells. As a battery discharges its specific gravity drops. This in turn raises the freezing point of the electrolyte. If any freezing occurs it is likely the battery will be damaged.

            It is good practice to connect a charger once a month to any battery not in regular use especially in the winter. I like to use a simple taper style 4 amp charger. If I forget to remove it after an overnight charge it won't damage the battery due to overcharge. Better yet if you have multiple batteries remove them from the vehicles , place them on a battery rack and connect your tungar bulb charger to them at a half amp or so and let them sit.
            American iron, real old school
            With two tone paint, it sure is cool

            Its got 8 cylinders and uses them all
            With an overdrive that just won't stall

            With a 4 barrel carb and dual exhausts
            With 4.23 gears it can really get lost

            Its got safety belts and I ain't scared
            The brakes are good and the tires are fair.

            Tried to sell her, but got no taker
            I"ll just keep driving my Studebaker


            • #7
              If the battery got so low that it froze, figure on replacing it.
              Just because it is only 18 months old, do not assume that it has not reached end of life. I just replaced a 24 month old battery. That 2 yr. old battery had replaced a similar battery that was eight years old just because it was eight years old. I found that the 24 month old battery had a two year guarantee, so I got nothing off. That guarantee was offered for a short period of time. Before and after that period, the batteries had a free replacement for the first one to three years and prorated after that.
              I kept thinking that the battery couldn't be bad and that there was something else wrong with the car - charging system, a drain, etc. At the cost of a battery, I figured that I would replace it because I did not believe that anything else was wrong with the car. The car has been fine with the new battery.
              Speaking of cost, I discovered that the battery price went up 36% for the same brand and capacity battery (in two years). Who says that there is no inflation. It just depends on what you have to buy.
              Gary L.
              Wappinger, NY

              SDC member since 1968
              Studebaker enthusiast much longer


              • #8
                I concur with Jack in post # 4. I live off the grid in British Columbia and power just about everything with solar/wind, powerful inverters and battery storage. A fully charged battery will not freeze. We winter in Arizona where summer temps are frequently over 125F (when we are back at home). As a result I am constantly replacing batteries in Arizona due to heat failure. Two years seems to be the average usable life expectancy. And yes, if you don't require the power, disconnect all draws.



                • #9
                  Yep, sounds like a draw some where. My 1950 Landcruiser would do the same thing. Tracking it down we found a faulty voltage regulator was the source.
                  My garage is heated but I still disconnect the battery on my old cars and use a battery tender Jr.
                  I have seen more than one old car have a short and burn car and garage down.
                  sigpic1957 Packard Clipper Country Sedan

                  "There's nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer"
                  Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle
                  "I have a great memory for forgetting things" Number 1 son, Lee Chan


                  • #10
                    I highly recommend putting a float charger on any battery that sits a week or longer. As attested in cold weather it is even more important. Though their prices have been all over the place the past year or so Harbor Freight occasionally has their float charger on sale for as little as $5.99 (right now, 3-11-15 they are $8.99).

                    I have about five of them and all my "hobby" cars get the constant charge. It can be weeks, even months before I get around to driving some of these cars. With batteries now around the $100 price range $5.99 is cheap insurance that the battery doesn't sulfate up or just outright die. I have a 12 year old battery that still is in use and I attribute it to the float charger.
                    '64 Lark Type, powered by '85 Corvette L-98 (carburetor), 700R4, - CASO to the Max.


                    • #11
                      In a late 1970s's winter, in Syracuse NY, I went to work one day and parked the car faced into the frigid wind all day, blowing snow across a field. It was likely way below zero, especially with wind chill factor. At the end of the day, when I got in the car, even the dome light would not come on. The battery had frozen, and locals told me it was not unusual in that kind of weather. It was dead as a door-nail, and the only fix was a new battery.

                      Maybe battery technology has improved today so that is not possible, but it sure happened back then.


                      • #12
                        When I worked in the arctic I used to put my vehicle(s) away at the beginning of November and disconnect the battery but leaving them in the vehicle(s). I would come back the end of April the next year re-connect the battery and the vehicles would start up. Never had a problem in 6 years as long as the battery was disconnect. The temperature there during the winter months would be 40 below.
                        55 President Deluxe
                        64 Commander
                        66 Cruiser

                        37 Oldsmobile F37 4 Door


                        • #13
                          Wind chill has no effect on batteries. The wind chill factor is derived from a combination of wind speed and temperature. Its effect is on living tissue only and your thermometer does not indicate wind chill as part of the temperature reading.


                          • #14
                            If you want to get the maximun life out of a battery use a battery tender to keep the battery at full charge during periods of non-use. Also know as float chargers, the most common brand is "Battery Tender" Thes are widely used by motorcyclists during the winter. They have electronics that stop them from charging when the battery is at full charge and then they give the battery short periodic bursts of charging, only enough to maintain them at full charge. They charge only at a trickle level.


                            • #15
                              After having a battery on a 1 amp charger overnight I went out the next day to find the battery had exploded and there were no pieces big enough to haul in for scrap. The battery acid ate the paint on the hood of my dad's 1991 Oldsmobile. A year later I had a 3 amp battery charger on my Dodge Dakota overnight. I came out in the morning and found the battery charger burned to a crisp. Luckily the charger was setting on top of the radiator tank with the hood open, so the flames couldn't spread to any nearby wires. I never leave a charger of any kind on an unattended battery unless it's placed outside away from anything that can be damaged by fire or an explosion. I would not use a trickle charger or battery maintainer either. My cars set for 6 to 7 months over winter and road salt season, then start right up in the spring. Both my Model A and 1950 Studebaker batteries are over 10 years old and still going strong. About once a month if I happen to go to the garage for something I'll clip on the charger cables and plug in the battery charger for a few minutes.

                              BTW, since BO has closed the lead mines, I was told we have to buy lead from China, and that's why the newer batteries aren't lasting very long.