NJ heat wave: Extreme heat is even worse for car batteries than cold, AAA says
About halfway through a midsummer heat wave in the Garden State, temperatures of surfaces can pose even more dangers than the temperature in the air.
That applies to just about everything under the hood of a car, according to Joe Erickson, AAA Club Alliance Approved Auto Repair territory manager for New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut.
Erickson said as exterior temperatures rise gradually, that of vehicle equipment spikes "exponentially," and can create evaporation that may, over time, compromise car batteries.
"It's kind of counter-intuitive, but summer heat is actually harder on a car's battery than the winter chill," Erickson said.
The typical age of a battery is three to five years, usually tending toward the upper end of that timeframe in (normally) moderate climates like New Jersey's, according to Erickson.
But that does not mean batteries should go unchecked entirely.
"In the Southern climates, it's probably closer to three years, so what we recommend is at around three years, start having your battery load-tested," Erickson said.
The worst thing a car owner can do, according to Erickson, is let their vehicle sit for an extended period of time without being driven, as most modern models contain internal computers that keep things running to a certain extent.
Those mechanisms can get run down, and wear down the battery as well.
"You should start it, drive it a little bit, or have what's called a battery tender which trickle-charges your battery while it's sitting," Erickson said.
The vibration of the road can be as much of an enemy as heat, Erickson said, so batteries need to be properly fastened and free of corrosion, which can be accomplished with a home remedy.
"It's very simple to clean your battery with a mix of baking soda and water, dump that on the battery and then rinse it off with some water, that'll clean the corrosion off the top of the battery, which is helpful," he said.
Anyone who does not feel comfortable doing that can and should take their car to a trusted mechanic, Erickson said.
So far during this heat wave, AAA has reported responding to more than 7,000 road service calls, with 1,200 of them for battery issues alone.