How High Temperatures Can Damage Your Car’s Battery

Most auto owners who live in areas where the wintertime temperature can drop well below freezing know that extremely cold temperatures can lead to death for their car batteries. Those who have experienced a dead battery on the year’s first sub-freezing temperatures might wonder: Can high temperatures ruin a car battery?

High temperatures not only can ruin a car battery, but they can also do it much faster than cold weather. The following gives you a better understanding of how hot weather affects your battery life.

Heat Shortens Battery Life

The hotter the climate in which you live, the shorter the service life of your car battery. Suppose you live in the Desert Southwest, where the outdoor temperature routinely tops 100 degrees. You could expect about half the service life from your car battery compared to a cooler climate, like in Alaska.

Generally speaking, the life expectancy of a car battery in particular climates is:

  • 30 months in a very hot climate like the Desert Southwest
  • 40 months in a hot climate like the Southeast U.S.
  • 45 months in a mild climate like California
  • 55 months in a cold climate like Alaska

Car owners who properly maintain their car batteries can expect nearly double the service life when they live in a cold climate versus a very hot climate.

Parking in a garage, especially with a climate control system, will help maximize service life. So will using a battery tender that keeps the battery fully charged while parked at your home.

How High Heat Affects Battery Life

Heat makes everything go faster, including the discharge rate of batteries. Every 25 degrees in temperature change from a baseline of about 50 to 60 degrees will double your car battery’s discharge rate. So an 80-degree day might cause the stored energy in a car battery to run out twice as fast as it would at 55 degrees.

If the temperature goes over 100 degrees, that discharge rate doubles again. That would be an exponential increase that could cause a battery to lose its usable power four times faster than when the ambient air temperature is mild.

Car batteries rely on a chemical reaction to generate electricity. The hotter the battery is, the faster the chemical reaction occurs. Unfortunately, that increased activity affects the materials that cause the chemical reaction and reduces their lifespan.

The more active the chemicals and the resulting chemical reaction occurs, the faster your car battery degrades. Heat is a catalyst for that chemical reaction, which is why batteries die faster in high temperatures and hot climates.

Thankfully, many people can take simple measures to protect against battery degradation. Parking in a garage or under a canopy that provides shade helps to keep the battery cooler. You also can check a battery’s condition, often free of charge, at a parts store or while getting an oil change or similar service done.

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