Can a Trickle Charger Keep a Battery From Freezing?

Car batteries can be expensive items. You want to protect that battery’s lifespan with textbook care. Extreme temperatures are the enemy of any battery. With winter’s cold on the way, wondering about batteries and freezing temperatures is only natural. Learn all about trickle charging and if it can fight off a frozen battery.

Knowing How Cold Affects the Battery

Consider the chemical reactions that impact a battery under extremely cold conditions. Chilly weather reduces the battery’s electrolyte to a jelly-like substance, reports Heavy Duty Trucking magazine. Charging or discharging the battery in these conditions will stress the electrolyte. Molecules simply can’t move as fast as normal.

A battery charger with a trickle mode applies stimulation to the electrolyte. Some heat is generated through this process. By warming the electrolyte even a little bit, the battery can complete a full charge and retain most of its normal functionality.

Answering the Freeze Question

A lithium ion battery can fight off freezing temperatures when it’s fully charged. What is a trickle charger? It’s a power device that maintains a full charge on a battery. Put the two together, and a battery won’t freeze.

Firestone Complete Auto Care reports that a fully charged battery can withstand temperatures down to -76-degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, discharged batteries will freeze at around 32-degrees F. Using battery charging as a defense mechanism is both smart and convenient. It’ll be ready to use when you need it without much damage to the electrolyte through the winter.

Choosing Smart Over Dumb Trickle Chargers

Trickle chargers can protect a battery from freezing, but choose the proper type. Old-fashioned designs are considered “dumb.” They don’t have the same control over the charge cycle as today’s advanced designs. In fact, dumb chargers can end up damaging the battery, which might lead to freezing conditions anyway.

Smart chargers keep a battery powered with these defined phases, including:

  • Bulk
  • Absorption
  • Float

The bulk phase is where the battery gains about 80 percent of its charge. Absorption occurs near the tail end of the process to safely complete the cycle.

Float mode is when the traditional trickle charge occurs. The battery receives enough energy to maintain full capacity. This phase is where you want the battery to remain as it fights off potential freezing conditions.

Improving the Odds

A clever way to improve the odds of a battery lasting through cold weather is by cleaning the contacts first. Battery charging and longevity depend on direct conductivity between a power source and the electrolyte. Any corrosion on the contacts will negatively impact the charging efficacy along with reducing the battery’s lifespan.

What is a trickle charger? This tool provides constant power to the battery so that freezing is a rarity. Clean those contacts with a mixture of baking powder and water. Attach the charger afterward. Neither extreme heat or cold will affect the battery with diligent care.

Testing the Battery

When you’re ready to use the battery, test it out before heading out on an adventure. The charged level should read between 12.6 and 14.4 volts without a load, reports Road & Track magazine. Trickle charging the battery leaves it at a consistently full level.

A good reading means that the battery didn’t freeze during its hiatus. The charger worked as designed.

You may have a problem with the trickle charge or battery if the voltage levels are below 12.6 volts. Although trickle chargers can fight off a freezing battery, decline can still occur in cold weather.

Discuss your questions with the experts at Northeast Battery today! Understanding the relationship between cold weather and battery health is important when you work with these power sources. Avoid being stranded this winter with charged batteries that last well into spring.