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February 2011

Your car won't start in cold weather? Check the battery

How many of us have experienced the frustration of going outside on a cold winter morning to awaken our cars from their frozen slumber – only for them not to start? Cold weather can be particularly tough on cars – and especially on car batteries. A neglected car battery is often the culprit for a non-starting vehicle.

Check the battery

That's why regular car battery maintenance is essential for properly caring for your vehicle (and a great insurance policy for starting your car in cold weather). Even if you are one of those people who are not handy under the hood of the car, there are a few simple things you can check to make sure your battery is properly maintained:

• Battery terminals. Make sure battery terminals are free of dust and that there is no sulfur formation. This is important to ensure good battery connectivity; it also will reduce corrosion and rust.

• Battery cables. Check your battery cables to make sure they are free from dust and corrosion. Again, this will help with the longevity of the cables and help ensure battery connectivity.

• Battery. The good news is that most car batteries these days are MAINTENANCE FREE, meaning you don’t have to handle messy liquids. However, keeping a clean battery is still important to the battery’s life and performance. Make sure that the battery stays free of any corrosion that may form on it.

• Battery position. Check the position of the battery on the battery table to ensure that it's not loose. A loose battery could not only be a hazard while driving, but also could help to disconnect the cable from the terminals.

Safety first. Even if you are just popping the hood to check on the condition of your battery, make sure you take proper safety measures when doing anything on your car. You should wear a pair of safety glasses and gloves while working around the battery. ALSO - before you open the hood of your car, make sure the car is turned off.

Finally, if you keep having problems starting the car, or experience additional electrical problems (battery dies, power is intermittent or weak), it's not necessarily the battery. It could be in the charging system, normally either a bad alternator or voltage regulator. In this case, visit a mechanic who can test the system to isolate the problem.

(Sources: Edmunds.com; carsdirect.com; batterystuff.com)

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