Hot Weather the True Culprit Behind Car-Battery Trouble

Excessive heat and overcharging are the two main reasons for shortened battery life. Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, this damaging the internal structure of the battery. A malfunctioning component in the charging system, usually the voltage regulator, allows too high a charging rate. That's slow death for a battery.

True, there are more road service calls in cold weather for dead batteries that cause starting failure. That's when a battery's output is diminished because of sluggish electro-chemical action that gives the battery its power. Also, colder temperatures increase thickness of the engine oil, making the engine harder to turn over. These factors lead to harder starting.

"An average of one out of four vehicles gets a new battery every year," said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. "Sooner or later all batteries have to be replaced, but having to so prematurely can involve more than the cost of a road service call and a new battery, it can be inconvenient as well."

To get the most life out of a battery, White suggests the following:

Cold Facts About A/C Refrigerant

How did we ever get along without air conditioning in our cars? It's a feature we take for granted until, suddenly, it's blowing hot air.

In the past few years, many owners have discovered that fixing an inoperative air conditioner can cost a few hundred dollars or more, depending upon the make and model of vehicle. The reason is that the old standby R-12 refrigerant, trade named DuPont Freon, has been replaced by R-134a. Touted as being environmentally safer than its predecessor, R-134a has been standard since '94.

If your older vehicle needs major repairs to the air conditioning system you can expect to replace refrigerant and the oil in the compressor in addition to the old components. You also may need to install a retrofit conversion. Do not allow anyone to mix refrigerants. They're not inter-changeable. You cannot add R-134a to your older air conditioner without first flushing the system. Further, according to the Car Care Council, some substitutes are volatile mixtures of propane, butane and flammable hydrocarbons. Keep in mind the fact that if your vehicle is leaking refrigerant, you're damaging the ozone layer.