Australia’s car ownership is not something that Aussies take as a given. A roobar is a must if you are a resident of the country. To pay tolls or park in the city, you will need to have a large wallet. You’ll need to ensure that spiders don’t nest in your engine bay, no matter where you live.
Thankfully, our arid, mostly temperate climate means we avoid many of the bugbears that plague motorists in other parts of the world, such as in Europe and North America. We don’t need to swap between summer and winter tyres, and our roads aren’t salted in winter so we don’t have to worry too much about rust.
Another common problem cold-climate motorists are used to is battery degradation during winter – but actually, this is a problem for Australian motorists, too. Aussies don’t think this is something to worry about, as the mercury rarely drops below freezing.
The reality is that Australians are losing money hand over foot, year after year, because we fail to properly maintain our car batteries – and the events of the last eighteen months have made what’s already a problem among Australia’s car population even worse. JAX has also seen an increase in sales of batteries after lockdown, possibly due to increased battery failures from infrequent use. This is likely due to the 30% increase in winter battery failures year-on-year.
Essentially, the particularly cold weather Australia’s faced this winter, combined with COVID-19 keeping people homebound and cars undriven during successive lockdown periods in both 2020 and 2021, has seen batteries go flat across the country. It’s a perfect storm for battery deaths.
The electrolyte liquid that makes up the majority of lead-acid car batteries reacts to temperature extremes. Heat will accelerate the battery’s chemical reactions while coldness can slow them down. It can sometimes be difficult for cars to start when it is cold.
Normally the cold isn’t a problem if you drive your car regularly and keep the battery charged: a fully charged lead-acid battery can survive at -50 C (a temperature you’ll never experience Down Under), a sluggish battery will freeze at a mere -1 C (entirely possible in the country’s cooler areas).
What are some solutions to this problem? JAX recommends that you do not park outside, as condensation could build up and cause current leakage. Instead, use the garage or undercover parking to keep your battery safe from the rainy and cold Australian winter.
Another way to keep your battery fighting fit is to put it on a trickle charger whilst you’re not using it. Many trickle chargers available on the market have battery reconditioning options that can revive a dead or weak battery. Personally, I found one that worked great.
Lithium-ion car batteries also resist the cold and require less maintenance than their lead-acid siblings, although they remain a much more expensive option – at least at the moment.