Can Excessive Heat Drain a Car Battery?

Can Excessive Heat Drain a Car Battery

There’s nothing more dreadful than the moment when your car just won’t start no matter what you try!

While many drivers mistakenly think that cold weather causes battery issues, it is actually the heat and high temperatures of summer that damage your car battery. 

If you’re wondering whether excessive heat drains a car battery, this article has the information that you need.

It will provide a comprehensive overview of how high temperatures impact your car battery and share expert insights into the following: 

  • How a car battery functions
  • Ways that high temperatures affect a car battery
  • Symptoms of heat damage
  • Tips to protect your car battery from heat

Let’s get into it!

How Car Batteries Work

A car battery is one of the most vital components in an automotive system. It provides the electrical power needed for starting the engine, operating the lights and different accessories, and running various electronic devices. 

The chemical reaction that powers a battery

Electrochemical reactions are what enable a car battery to operate. 

There are two types of plates found inside a cart battery: a positive plate and a negative plate, which are made of lead and lead dioxide. They are both immersed in an electrolyte solution that consists of water and sulfuric acid. 

Once a car battery is connected to the starter motor, an electrochemical reaction occurs between the electrolyte solution and the plates. This is what generates the electrical current that travels through the terminals and the cables that are connected to it. 

Electricity production

When a car battery is charged, the chemical reaction that transpires will produce lead sulfate and release electrons, creating an electrical current. 

Once the battery discharges, the lead sulfate will turn back into lead and lead dioxide. As a result, the electrolyte solution becomes less acidic! 

Although the car battery itself is what gives the initial surge of energy required to start the engine, it’s actually the alternator that keeps it charged and powers the vehicle’s electrical systems while the engine is running. 

An alternator is fundamentally a kind of generator that utilizes rotational energy from the car’s engine to produce an electrical current. 

Its parts include a stator, a rotor, and a group of diodes that transform an AC current into a DC current used by the vehicle’s various electrical systems. 

How batteries recharge

The alternator also recharges your car battery while you are driving. It has the ability to do this by generating an electrical current through the alternator belt that is connected to the engine, turning physical energy into electricity. 

Meanwhile, a voltage regulator is what helps keep the electrical current at an optimal level and prevents the car battery from overcharging. 

A car battery can be charged and discharged multiple times because its electrochemical reactions are reversible. Once the car battery is fully charged, the negative plate becomes coated with pure lead while the positive plate is coated with lead dioxide.

How Heat Affects a Car Battery

Life can feel much more demanding when it’s terribly hot outside and the same applies to your vehicle’s battery. After just a quick walk to the next block, you suddenly find yourself in dire need of water. 

Car batteries can get parched in the same way when they experience the brutal heat. These high temperatures can weaken the battery’s charge by evaporating its vital liquids. 

Unfortunately, the damage caused by the heat will stay with the battery even long after the temperature cools down! 

Since a car battery also generates heat, the gaseous venting that encompasses it causes the liquid mixture of water and acid to slowly evaporate. 

If this fluid level drops too low, damage can happen because the battery’s internal plates are not properly protected. These damaged cells lead the battery to produce less voltage. 

Once the temperature begins to rise, the car battery will be affected by the heat. The high temperatures can start overheating the battery’s liquid mixture and significantly alter its chemical balance, which can result in the following: 

  • Corrosion - Intense moisture and heat lead to corrosion on the car battery’s metal components. In turn, they will not be able to adequately function for the car’s engine
  • Sulfation - Small amounts of lead sulfate will stay on a car battery’s lead plates after each recharge, this process is known as sulfation. High heat levels can also cause battery failure by accelerating sulfation
  • Evaporation - During the summertime or in hot climates, the outdoor temperatures can accelerate the naturally high heat of the engine
  • Overcharging - A car’s battery charging system can even malfunction due to extreme heat, causing it to overcharge. Similar to other electronic devices, overcharging your car battery can significantly lower its lifespan. 

Signs of a Heat-Damaged Battery

The good news is that there are a handful of symptoms that can indicate whether your car battery needs cleaning or replacements. 

While some of these signs are immediately apparent, others will require a visual inspection. To help you determine if the heat is damaging your battery, let’s take a look at some of the most common signs to look out for: 

Corroded terminal ends

Moisture, heat, and evaporation are a deadly combination for your car battery – especially once you notice corrosion on the metal terminal ends. 

you can avoid a complete battery replacement by cleaning the battery or replacing the terminal ends if you are able to spot this issue early on. 

Battery dashboard light or electrical issues

If your car’s battery dashboard light turns on, it could mean that the battery is overheating. 

However, it’s important to remember that the light could be on due to several other reasons. For instance, it might be on because of an issue with the alternator. 

To find out what the exact issue is, you can reach out to a professional for a complete and thorough diagnosis. 

Additionally, noticing that your headlights or interior lights are dim could be a strong indication that you are experiencing battery trouble. 

Warped or bloated battery

Since extreme temperatures can boil your battery fluid, the heat can also make its components more malleable. 

As a result, the rise of building pressure can cause the car battery to warp or swell. This issue becomes even worse if the battery is overcharged due to the heat. In this case, you will most likely need an immediate battery replacement! 

Difficulties starting the engine

Struggling to start your vehicle is almost always a strong indication that the battery is experiencing issues. 

If your car battery functions normally in certain temperatures but has difficulties in higher temperatures, it is a clear sign that it is because of the heat. 

Seek expert insights

If you are unsure about the state and performance of your car battery, the best thing to do is take it to a trusted mechanic. These professionals will be able to inform you whether the heat is causing the problem or if it is another issue. Once they identify the underlying problem, they can deliver the right service to solve it. 

Protecting Your Battery from Heat

Fortunately, there are a number of simple steps that you can take to protect your car battery from the scorching heat. Let’s dive into the top to keep your car battery safe from high temperatures: 

Opt for garage parking 

Keep your car parked in a garage as much as possible!

Although a garage does not typically have air conditioning, it can significantly help your vehicle cool by keeping it away from the sun. Moreover, it can keep it protected from outside hazards such as pollen. 

Park in the shade 

If you do not have access to an enclosed garage, parking your car under the shade is the next best measure. 

Shade providers like trees or buildings can prevent your vehicle from direct sunlight. Shaded areas can leave surfaces up to 45℉ cooler than unshaded surfaces. 

Install car covers

You can also protect your vehicle from the extreme heat with an all-weather car cover. They essentially serve to deflect heat and shield your car from UV rays. 

It is ideal to put these overs on once your car has had time to cool down to avoid trapping any moisture or heat. 

Use radiator fluid flush 

A radiator is what keeps the engine cool and protects the battery from overheating. Without a properly working radiator, your car battery will incur far worse damage from the heat. 

Not only that, but it can even lead to complete engine failure! As such, it is crucial to always ensure that your radiator maintenance flushes are updated.

Check the water levels

Some car batteries are equipped with an indicator for water levels that informs you about how much evaporation it has faced. 

Although you cannot refill your car battery’s water because it is sealed, being aware of low water levels can help you extend its lifespan by being more mindful of heat exposure. 

It can also give you a heads-up to purchase a battery replacement ahead of time before getting stranded with a dead battery.  

Improve your driving habits

Did you know that leaving your car dormant for long periods can drain its battery and even shorten its lifespan? 

On top of that, short-distance drives actually use more power than the battery can replenish. To avoid this, you can simply go on more extended drives once in a while during errand runs.

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