How Cold Weather Affects Semi Batteries

Like passenger vehicles, freezing temperatures can drain commercial semi batteries. Understanding how winter weather affects your semi’s battery can help you prevent costly downtime and potential repairs.

Reduced Battery Performance

Batteries for commercial vehicles rely on electrochemical reactions to produce enough energy to power the engine and electrical system. Temperatures below 32⁰ F slow those reactions, making it more difficult for the battery to deliver the power your truck needs. The electrolyte inside a battery becomes more viscous in the cold, increasing internal resistance and slowing the electrical current.

Lower Power Levels

Cold weather may cause a temporary loss in battery capacity. Low power often results from sulfation or the formation of lead sulfate crystals on the battery plates. That occurs when your commercial vehicle’s battery remains in a discharged or partially charged state for an extended period.

Poor Charging State

All batteries lose charge over time, but cold weather increases the rate of self-discharge. Leaving your commercial vehicle untouched in freezing temperatures for a long time increases self-discharge. That can pose a problem when recharging your semi’s battery, reducing its overall electrical output.

An increased electrical load from powering heating and lights can also affect your battery charge, especially if it’s already running low.

Is It the Battery or the Alternator?

Signs of a dead battery:

  • Slow cranking during ignition
  • Clicking sounds during startup
  • Corrosion on battery terminals
  • Electrical system issues
  • A warning light on your dashboard
  • Frequent jump starts

Signs of a bad alternator:

  • Dim or flickering interior and exterior lights
  • Electrical failure during operation
  • Whining sounds
  • Engine stalling
  • Burning smell
  • Trouble rolling up windows

Tips for Preventing Dead Semi Batteries During Winter

Test your battery: Check your battery charge more frequently during winter. Test the voltage as a part of your pre-trip inspection and potentially during your drive if the temperatures are especially low.

Recharge: Your battery will charge faster if you recharge it after driving, specifically the auxiliary battery. Charge your cranking battery ahead of a cold snap, too.

Use an engine block heater: Placing an engine block heater in your commercial vehicle may ease startup on cold mornings. Doing so supports battery life and can reduce mechanical wear on engine components.

Park indoors: Shielding your commercial vehicle from freezing temperatures and wind chill lowers the risk of a dead battery.

Try a battery blanket: The heating element in a battery blanket insulates your battery from the cold. Some have built-in thermostats so you can adjust the temperature as needed.

Start your vehicle daily: Doing so helps your battery stay charged and reduces the impact of discharge that can occur while it’s not in use.

Schedule Fleet Maintenance at Bauer Built

We offer comprehensive fleet maintenance services to keep your commercial vehicle in top shape, even during the coldest months of the year. Find a Bauer Built location near you, and schedule commercial service today.

Categories: Bauer Built Blog