Battery breakdowns

Most common cause of breakdown at any time of year but particularly in winter

Battery faults are the most common cause of breakdown

Battery faults are the most common cause of breakdown

Battery faults are the most common cause of breakdown.  AA patrols were called to more than half a million battery breakdowns in 2010 and replaced more than 140,000 batteries.

Batteries can die at any time of year but it's more likely in winter when cold temperatures hit car batteries with a triple-whammy:

  • power output drops
  • ability to accept a charge drops, so the battery doesn't recharge as quickly when you're driving
  • load increases – lights, blowers, wipers, heated seats, rear-screen heater etc are all used more

Add in the fact that many cars stand unused over the Christmas holiday and it's no surprise that the first day back to work after New Year is always one of the busiest of the year for the AA.

Battery problems can be avoided

The garage that services your car should check that clamps and connections to the battery are secure and free from corrosion, but there are a few simple tips you can follow to reduce the chance of your battery letting you down in the depths of winter;

Age

If the battery is more than five years old and there's any sign of it struggling to start the car, get it replaced. Some will struggle on for a bit but many won't. It's much better done at your convenience than as a roadside emergency.

Charge

If you mostly do short journeys or leave the car standing for days at a time, invest in a modern battery conditioner/intelligent charger. These can be left connected to the battery indefinitely and can prolong its life without overcharging it.

Load

Check that everything electrical is turned off when you park up – even an interior light, boot light, or radio left on overnight can kill a battery when it's cold.

Give the battery a chance

Switch off everything electrical and dip the clutch to reduce the load on the battery when you start a cold car.

Need a new battery?

A mobile technician from AA Battery Assist will visit to test and replace your old battery – at a time and place convenient for you. If it turns out that your battery just needs charging then we'll do that for free if you're an AA Member.

(20 September 2013)