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Cold Snaps can Crimp Your Crank: How Extreme Temperatures Damage Car Batteries

November 5th, 2013 by


Extreme temperatures can have deteriorating effects on car batteries. Here’s a quick review:

Extreme Heat

  • Extreme under hood heat allows the battery to reach high internal temperatures (140°+ F/60°+ C).
  • Extreme internal battery temperatures allow the lead plates to corrode and deteriorate.
  • The higher the internal battery temperature plus the number of times the battery reaches a high internal temperature affects and reduces battery service life.

Extreme Cold

  • Extreme cold temperatures reduce a battery’s chemical action and reaction.
  • The cooler the ambient temperature (below 80° F/26.7° C), the more energy is required from the battery in order to start a vehicle’s engine.
  • Colder temperatures also result in a reduction of the battery’s recharge efficiency.

Only in extremes?

So, do batteries only fail during these extreme times? Understandably the answer is NO! Next to extreme heat and cold failure trends, the extreme drops or changes in temperature can trigger immediate battery failures.

Imagine that it is near the end of summer or early fall. The daytime temperature reached 90° F (32° C).


You wake up to find that a cold front came in overnight and the temperature is now 40° F (4.4° C). You are freezing when you first go outside. The chemicals in your body have not had time to adjust to this 50° change in temperature.

You get to your car and turn the key (or push a button) and find the engine is barely turning over. WOW!

It was starting great yesterday. What happened?

110513_1813_ColdSnapsca2.jpgThe battery has just endured the extreme summer heat. Internal corrosion has attacked the lead plates and deteriorated (corroded away some of the lead), weakening the battery. The summer heat/humidity also increased the corrosion on the battery posts and connections. The colder temperature has reduced the battery’s chemical reaction efficiency (electrolyte to chemical plate paste reaction), reducing its power availability compared to 90° F.

We also know that the vehicle’s engine requires additional starting power when it gets cold. It is a combination of mechanical and chemical. Let’s say this customer’s V6 engine requires 400 amps for the first half-second, then 200 amps to finish the start at of 90° F. The battery is rated at 550 CCA @ 0° F (-18° C), but due to the heat deterioration within the battery, it can only produce 400 amps at that temperature. When the temperature falls to 40° F overnight, the vehicle’s engine could easily require 550 amps for the first second then 275 amps to finish starting. The result is highly probable that the vehicle will have a sluggish or no start condition.

 Remember this information

  • Cold temperatures dramatically reduce battery efficiency.
  • Engine start requirements (power in amps) are greatly increased.
  • Have your battery test conducted prior to the “BAM! Effect” of dramatic temperature change.

Do you have a question for Mr. Battery?

Find out your battery answers at

  • Search the FAQs for all kinds of information, including jump starting a battery and the advantages of an AGM battery vs. a flooded lead-acid battery.
  • Look up information in the battery glossary of terms.
  • Read previous Tech Talk articles and press releases.
  • Ask Mr. Battery any battery question and it will be answered within 24 hours.

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Interstate Batteries: Cold Snaps Can Crimp Your Crank

By Gale Kimbrough (11 Posts)

As Manager of Interstate Batteries’ Engineering and Technical Services Group, Gale Kimbrough oversees technical training, product engineering, testing and validating electrical/electronic components.

Posted in Automotive, Maintenance, Mr. Battery, Preparedness, Tips


This force also causes vibrations in the crankshaft, and at certain frequencies, the shaft can resonate, which makes the vibrations even worse These vibrations from the engine can become too much for the crankshaft to bear, causing it to fail. And when that happens, your car won't run and you'll be facing some expensive repairs.This is where the harmonic balancer comes in.

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Interstate Batteries® sells more than 16,000 kinds of batteries—from AA alkalines and automotive batteries to critical power solutions, and everything in between. Combine professional battery services, recycling programs and the largest battery distribution network in North America, and you’ll find Interstate has EVERY BATTERY FOR EVERY NEED®. Learn more about Interstate Batteries or shop online!

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