Google has witnessed a recent surge in Brits searching for the answer to the question, ‘What to do if my car battery has gone flat?’. The query gained a volume of 1.6k searches in September (2023) alone. Data from the AA reveals that over one in six (almost 17%) of all breakdown callouts between January and September 2023 were related to car batteries (please note that these statistics are based on a 12v battery).
The AA predicts this to shortly increase as the number of car battery callouts peaks during the winter months at just under a quarter (22%) of their total callouts. With the cold weather rolling in, the AA has answered some of the most common questions surrounding car battery maintenance.
Winter months are the most common for flat battery callouts
The AA reveals that a faulty battery (12v) is one of the most common reasons for a car not starting. In September 2023, just over one in six (17%) of the AA’s 261k callouts were related to flat car batteries (44k callouts).
Car batteries face a particularly difficult time during the winter, with them being more under strain. In December 2022, almost one in four (23%) of the AA’s total callouts were battery-related (70k callouts), making this the most common month for flat battery callouts.
Warm weather is considered better for car batteries, due to the reduced strain on the battery. In June 2022, there were just over 34k callouts, less than half those seen in December.
What are the most common causes of a flat battery?
While extreme cold weather is a contributing factor, there are many other elements that can have an impact on your car battery’s health. The main ones include:
- Inactivity: The battery can lose its charge when a vehicle is left unused for an extended period of time
- Short or stop-start journeys: Cars that are only used for short trips or frequent stop-and-start driving may not allow the battery enough time to recharge fully
- Leaving the electrics on: Accidentally leaving the car’s electrical accessories while the engine isn’t running can drain the battery
- Faulty components: A malfunctioning component within the vehicle’s electrical system can contribute to battery issues
- Issues with the charging system: The battery might not be receiving a proper charge if your car’s charging system isn’t working properly
- Battery faults: The battery may be worn out, leading to a loss of charge
Other factors can cause your car battery to fail, including excessive engine vibration, overcharging, corrosion on battery terminals, and extreme temperatures.
Tips for keeping your car battery healthy
A car battery will usually last you five years but this depends on how you’re using your car. Replacing a battery can cost you between £100 to £400, so the AA has provided some tips to save you money and preserve your car battery for longer:
1. Avoid doing too many short journeys
If you’re only using your car for short journeys, this can be bad for your battery as it won’t be getting enough time to recharge. If you get a moment in the week, going for a drive of 30 minutes or more will help your car’s battery recharge.
2. Invest in an intelligent charger
If you don’t need to use your car often, a great way to keep the battery going is by getting yourself an intelligent charger. Once it’s connected to your battery, it will only provide it with the charge it needs. It’s a safe way of keeping your battery healthy, allowing you to keep it charged without having to use your car.
3. Switch your electrics off
Whether you’re on your way to work or having a busy day full of errands, it can be easy to forget to disconnect your car’s electrics, such as your lights or stereo. It’s a good idea to check that all your electrics are off before leaving the car, otherwise they could drain your battery’s charge when you’re not using it.
4. Dip the clutch
The starter motor uses the battery’s power to get the engine running. By pressing the clutch pedal when you start the car, you’ll be taking some load off the starter motor as well as the car battery.
If you’re having trouble starting the car after five years, it might be a sign that your battery is tired. You should consider replacing it with a new one.
Car battery myths debunked
There are several misconceptions about what can impact your car’s battery health. The AA has separated fact from fiction so that you have all the information you need to carry out car battery maintenance and avoid unnecessary expenses.
Having the heating and air conditioning on in the car will drain my battery
While these car functions need energy from your car battery, it’s highly unlikely that either will drain it when the engine is running. Leaving them on when you leave the car will inevitably drain your battery, however. That’s why you should always switch off your electric accessories along with the engine.
Listening to the radio in the car will drain my battery
Cars are designed to be energy-efficient these days, which means that your radio is also unlikely to drain your car battery while the engine is running. However, if you’ve cut off the engine, and left your key in the ‘accessory’ position, there’s a chance the radio could drain your battery over a long period of time.
Standstill traffic drains my car battery
Standstill traffic won’t necessarily drain your battery. Your battery is certainly being used more while the car is idle, however, stop-and-go traffic is unlikely to impact its charge. If your car is only used for short journeys or stop-start journeys on the other hand, this could eventually lead to your battery dying as a result of not being fully charged regularly.
Using CarPlay and maps will drain my car battery
Using features like CarPlay and GPS navigation on your smartphone through your car’s system will use some of your battery’s power. However, it won’t be enough to drain it as long as you’re using them while the engine is running.