Car Batteries in the Desert
Hello 100-degree temperatures! Welcome back to Las Vegas. You really don’t think much about your car battery dying in the heat, but once you’ve moved to the desert, it’s a lesson you learn fast. Car batteries survive an average of two years or 30,000 miles.
Here in Las Vegas, residents that move from the East coast and Midwest regions can expect that their car batteries will drain out within the first couple years in dry, desert heat. We see it all the time here at Desert Oasis Auto Repair.
“When most motorists think of dead batteries that cause starting failure, they think of severe winter weather, but summer heat is the real culprit,” says Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. “Many battery problems start long before the temperatures drop. Heat, more than cold, shortens battery life.” As a rule of thumb, every additional 15 degrees Fahrenheit over 60 degrees halves the lifespan of a sealed lead acid battery.
When the humidity drops to 11 percent and the air temperature rises to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, water evaporates from car batteries like a prisoner escaping Alcatraz. This starves the electrolyte of water and bumbles its chemical composition, leading to lead sulfate deposits on the plates. In the old days, motorists would add a DIY concoction of distilled water and Epsom salts to dissolve sulfate deposits (at the risk of corrosion), but most modern-day batteries already include similar additives.
What’s a motorist to do?
You must purchase a new battery! Here, there are two schools of thought.
Old-timers recommend purchasing any ol’ battery with a 3- or 5-year warranty from Sam’s Club or Autozone. Once the battery dies in two years, you take it back and receive a new one.
The second school of thought advises buying the best battery available, such as an Optima gel-cell battery (approx. $200) or an Exide AGM battery (approx. $220) or a Sears Diehard lead-acid battery (approx. $120). Regardless of which type of battery you choose, it must meet or exceed the OEM recommendation for cold cranking amps (CCA) and reserve capacity (RC). In hot weather, you want the most reserve capacity you can get, a minimum of 80 minutes.
Now that you have a new battery, how do you maintain it?
Of course we’ll inspect the battery for you, but here are DIY steps to check your car battery:
1. Install it correctly. Strap it down and tighten the cables. Batteries don’t like to be bounced around.
2. Clean any corroded cable connections using baking soda or, for more severe corrosion, Naval Jelly. Scour the connections using steel wool or a light wire brush.
3. Wipe any dirt off the top of the battery to prevent parasitic loading.
4. When it’s not in use for two weeks or more, remove the battery and charge it using a trickle charger/maintainer. Charge it somewhere with lots of ventilation and cool air, like the garage.
5. Maintain coolant levels to prevent engine overheating, heat that the battery must absorb. At high temperatures, batteries often refuse to charge to maximum capacity, which – you guessed it – shortens their lifespan.
6. Park inside. After all, the battery’s nearest neighbor is a thrumming engine sizzling at 180 degrees. Why make its life worse? If you can’t park inside, use a white car cover.
And when the inevitable day comes when the starter motor hesitates, the headlights dim, or the radio won’t work, don’t wait until next week. Have the battery tested or replaced now. If you are concerned about checking the health of your car battery on your own, we at Desert Oasis European Auto Service and Repair are happy to check it on your behalf. Give us a call 702-255-4090 now!