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During winter, the most common cause of vehicle malfunctions is a depleted or dead car battery. While cold weather has a detrimental effect on a car battery, driver mistakes can adversely affect a battery as well. Here are some mistakes that you should avoid that will destroy a car battery.

How can you ruin a car battery?

Close-up view of voltmeter on car battery, highlighting ways that you can destroy a car battery
Voltmeter and car battery | Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A car battery needs to work harder in cold weather, for the oil that the engine and transmission utilize gets thicker, which makes it more challenging for the engine to turn. Cold weather also causes a battery to rapidly lose its power. When you make these mistakes, as detailed by Autoevolution, it makes it even more difficult for a battery to function. 

Here are the ways in which you can ruin a car battery:

  • Frequently driving short distances
  • Forgetting to turn off the lights and other things that consume electricity
  • Dirty terminals on the car battery
  • Not maintaining a battery when a car is not used for a long time
  • Ignoring warning signs of problems with a battery

Frequently driving short distances

Often driving short distances is harmful to many car components, but it’s especially damaging for a battery. If you drive a short distance, you don’t give the battery much time to recharge. When you use features like heated seats and a windshield defroster in the winter, it makes it all the harder.

Forgetting to turn off the lights and other things that consume electricity

The most common cause of a dead battery is when a driver forgets to turn off the lights. While most modern cars automatically turn off the lights, there are other electronic components that can deplete a battery. This includes a radio, an infotainment system, a climate control system, a dashboard camera, and other features and accessories. 

Dirty terminals on the car battery

You want to make sure that the car battery is clean, especially the area around the terminals. Dirt, dust, and debris can result in a leakage of current between the positive and negative terminals.

Not maintaining a battery when a car is not used for a long time

Even if you don’t drive a car for a long time, which is more common with many people staying at home during the pandemic, you should still keep it properly maintained. This includes maintenance for the battery.

Ignoring warning signs of problems with a battery

Most of the time, car batteries don’t just suddenly die. They usually gradually deteriorate over time, which shows up as warning signs. Be on the lookout for things like an engine that struggles to turn over or lights that flicker.

How can I improve the performance of a car battery?

In addition to avoiding the mistakes that will ruin a car battery, there are measures that you can take to improve its performance. Purchase a multimeter, or a voltmeter, and occasionally check the voltage of the battery. If the battery is below 12 volts, you should recharge it. Also, if you drive short distances during the winter, try to minimize your use of car features that consume electricity. Even if your commute is short, try to drive a longer distance occasionally to give the battery the opportunity to fully recharge. 


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