Extreme temperatures killing car batteries

POUGHKEEPSIE – The Hudson Valley went through quite the heat spell this past summer. There was a nine-day streak from July 21-29 in which the temperature breached 90 degrees, and in three separate instances, the barometer read 97.

It was the kind of temperature that caused plenty of headaches – broken air conditioners, dead plants/grass, and much more. And while the excruciating heat projects to just about be over for 2016, it won’t go without a fight; it’s causing one more issue – dead car batteries.

Several Marist College students have fallen victim to this mechanical issue in the past few days.

“I tried starting my car up last night,” student Emma Guidi said on Monday. “It made the whirring noise and never fully started. I’ve talked with several people about it. I’ve heard of two other people who have had the same issue [recently].”

Guidi noted the coincidence that so many Marist students were having this issue, and it begged the question: could it be the hot weather?


A student’s dead car battery, right, in Marist’s Fulton lot

When asked if battery sales tend to go up due to extreme heat, an employee at Sears Auto Center near the Poughkeepsie Galleria Mall said that heat has nothing to do with car batteries dying.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with the weather,” he said. “We get the same business whether it’s hot, cold or somewhere in the middle. It has to do with the age of the battery.”

Other experts in the area, however, have a different take on the issue.

“This happens in the heat,” said Jimmy from Brandl’s Auto in Poughkeepsie. “We’ve been getting non-stop calls for dead batteries the last two weeks.”

To settle the score, two workers at North Road Auto cleared things up.

“The heat affects car batteries just as much as the cold,” said Bill, an employee. “Our sales spike the most in the dead of winter and in the summer. Whoever tells you it’s just a winter thing, that’s a myth.”

The owner of the shop, John, reiterated that same point, but he gave more insight into why exactly the battery dies.

“If the battery starts to fail, the alternator charges it back up and it takes a toll on the charging system,” he said. “There are lead plates lined up side by side and energy flows through them, turning water into sulfuric acid. A normal battery should be at 12.6 volts and the alternator charges at 14.4, but anything over that is dangerous. If you notice moisture on the top of your battery, that means sulfuric acid is boiling, which is a product of overcharging.

“I know a guy whose car wouldn’t start one night so he used a lighter to see what the problem was. It ignited the acid, exploded and left him blind. The key to preventing these issues is getting regular maintenance and battery tests.”

The weather forecast calls for upper-70’s to lower-80’s over the next two weeks. You can bet that Marist students are looking forward to it – but the local businesses are not.

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